Ireland 250 acres smaller after floods tear chunks off coastline
Ireland is 250 acres smaller – as the recent floods and storms tore large blocks off the country's coastline, with the repair bill now set to top €350m.
Environmental engineers and coastal erosion researchers estimate that in some areas, up to two metres (6ft) have been washed away from vulnerable coastlines through a record succession of violent winter storms.
That equates to the loss of 250 acres – or the equivalent of a large farm – to the raging seas. There is 500km of Ireland's coastline at high risk and 1,600km at moderate erosion risk.
ESQ Consulting Engineers said that the frequency of violent storms was directly related to higher levels of coastal erosion. "The rate of erosion can vary from 0.3 metres to 1.5 metres per year," the firm said.
But such has been the violence of Atlantic gales from the 'Storm Factory' south of Greenland that in some areas erosion has approached two metres in the space of a few months.
The succession of storms also left Irish councils facing record repair bills, exacerbated by damaging floods in many areas including Cork, Clare, Galway and Limerick.
The damage to coastal facilities, roads, piers and harbours is now estimated at €20m in Galway, €33m in Clare, €20m in Kerry and €10m in Cork.
However, the Cork figure is expected to rise substantially.
Furthermore, the cost of damage to private property by the floods and storms is estimated to be around €200m nationally.
Office of Public Works (OPW) Minister Brian Hayes stressed that the repair bills must not deflect from the need to improve Irish coastal protection and key flood defences.
Ireland only spends €45m each year on flood defences but Mr Hayes acknowledged much more needs to be invested.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to increase flood and coastal defence spending in the UK to a whopping €2.3bn a year.
Mr Hayes said Ireland urgently needed to "ramp up" spending to protect vulnerable areas such as Cork, acknowledged as Ireland's most flood-prone city.
Cork city centre was devastated by flooding on February 3 and 4. The city has now been promised €100m for a flood defence scheme, though even without delays, it won't be operational before 2017.
"We need to spend more money on flood relief schemes because, by comparison to other European countries, we are not as well prepared," Mr Hayes said.
The repair and clean-up operation has accelerated nationwide over the past three weeks.
In Clare, the campaign focused on Lahinch where the promenade was virtually destroyed by giant waves in Superstorm Darwin.
Down the coast, Kerry County Council is facing repairs of €20m with Rossbeigh Strand and Fenit Island the worst hit by the storms. Kerry County Council spent an estimated €25,000 clearing local roads of sand, boulders and debris and conducting interim repairs – only to see a major storm cause further damage.