Monday 26 September 2016

Families warned floods won't recede quickly

Water levels to peak today but 'severe' risk remains

Published 14/12/2015 | 02:30

Emergency workers recover a car in Corbally in Limerick
Emergency workers recover a car in Corbally in Limerick
How it works: Water management at Parteen Weir

Families affected by floods have been warned there will be no quick relief to their plight even after floodwaters peak today.

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It will take weeks for the river levels to return to normal, meaning large areas of the country are likely to remain under water for some time. More than 50 families have now been evacuated from their homes because of flood damage or for their own safety.

And with the ESB increasing the flow from Parteen Weir again yesterday, tensions are rising further in parts of Clare and Limerick.

ESB Engineering Manager Tom Browne said it is "very difficult" to say whether they will be forced to open the weir even more in the coming days.

"We'll be watching how the levels change in Lough Derg over the next 24 hours. It's not really possible to make a prediction on that.

"Obviously, when we open the weir in Parteen that does create more risks downstream."

Last night, the weir was omitting 440 cubic metres of water per second, but this is still shy of the record of almost 500 cubic metres set during the floods in 2009.

While the weekend rain was not as torrential as feared, Met Éireann says there will be rain every day this week.

Meteorologist Gerald Fleming said things have "settled down to some extent" but "every day this week will bring its share of rainfall.

"The totality of rainfall this week will be above average but not at warnings level," he said.

The National Co-ordination Group overseeing the multi-agency response to the crisis met again yesterday.

It heard that water levels in the upper regions of the Shannon, north of Carrick-on-Shannon, fell about half an inch yesterday in the first sign that the crisis might be peaking.

However, around Athlone and all the way down to Limerick, the water levels were still going up and will not peak until some time today.

"The big picture is the Shannon system is rising still and that, of course, is a cause of concern to us," said Jim Casey, head of the OPW's Hydrology and Coastal Section.

He said their analysis suggests water levels in the Shannon will start reducing in the next 24 hours but "the fall will be very slow".

"I would stress we are still in a severe flood category," he said.

Chairman of the group John Barry warned that there are still safety concerns in relation to floodwaters.

"Floodwaters contain dangerous contaminants and flowing floodwaters carry dangers," he said, adding that the heavy rain over recent days had caused significant damage to some roadways.

People have been forced out of their homes in Shannon, Athlone, Corbally and Carrick-on-Shannon.

More than 100 houses in Leitrim have had their water cut off, while in Mayo there is a major problem with a waste water treatment plant in Foxford.

Irish Water has been able to maintain normal water supplies to the vast majority of its customers while dealing with 89 separate incidents affecting treatment plants due to the effects of Storm Desmond.

The crisis even spread to Maynooth over the weekend as the Royal Canal breached its banks and threatened to flood four houses.

During Saturday's heavy rain, Clare County Council dealt with 300 calls from members of the public seeking help, while roads in parts of north county Dublin were impassable.

"There are problems in every county but they are being tackled and dealt with," said Galway City Manager Brendan McGrath, who attended the emergency briefing as a representative of the City and County Managers Association.

The Department of Social Protection has established clinics in several areas, including Ballinasloe and Crossmolina, to provide information on how to access its humanitarian fund. They are also considering opening further clinics in Gort, Athlone, Limerick and Ennis.

Irish Independent

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