Flooding has forced 540 families out of homes
New figures show situation worse than previously feared
Published 11/01/2016 | 02:30
More than 500 families have been forced to flee their homes due to rising waters since the flooding crisis began more than a month ago.
Official returns to the Department of the Environment show local authorities and other agencies helped evacuate 542 domestic properties since December 3 last, of which just over half have been reoccupied since.
But the real number of families forced to find alternative accommodation is likely to be far higher because some badly affected counties - including Clare and Waterford - have not told the department the number of homes affected.
The data comes as Met Éireann warns there will be showers this week, which may put pressure on river systems that are only beginning to stabilise following weeks of rising waters.
The figures are the first set of official data that shows the impact of the flooding crisis on individual properties.
The National Coordination Group had suggested, based on incomplete returns, that up to 300 homes may have been evacuated - but the latest information, which was received on Friday, shows the situation is more serious than previously believed.
However, the figures do not include homes deemed to be at risk of flooding, or which were inaccessible due to flooded roads, meaning that not until the crisis has passed will an accurate picture of the extent of the flooding emerge.
Mayo was the worst-hit county, with 90 homes evacuated. Residents have since returned to 70 of these properties.
Mayo is followed by Westmeath, Galway and Wexford. However, there is no information available for Clare, which was among the most badly-hit areas. The Department is also awaiting information from Waterford, Offaly and Monaghan, among others.
Leitrim was among the worst affected counties - but the figures show just three homes were evacuated. However, figures released to the Irish Independent from the local authorities show that, while the number of evacuated homes in the county was small, some 136 domestic properties were inaccessible due to flood waters. As of late last week, 42 remained under threat.
The local authorities also said 31 businesses were affected. The most affected properties were in south Leitrim, around Carrick-on-Shannon and Leitrim Village. A small number were also affected at Gublaun and Rossinver in the north of the county.
In Kerry, 17 homes were evacuated but 48 houses were considered damaged but habitable. Some 24 businesses in the Kingdom were affected.
In Wicklow, nine homes in Greystones and three in Arklow were evacuated. Another 20 houses were damaged in Arklow, and 35 were under threat as of last Friday.
Separately, Cork County Council said that it had incurred just over €5m in costs during the crisis, and predicted that damage to roads, bridges and embankments could incur a bill between €15m and €20m.
The council had deployed some 31,000 sandbags since the beginning of January, of which 13,500 were distributed in the Midleton area.
The data was released amid reports the Office of Public Works has identified 70,000 homes at risk of flooding by rivers or the sea. However, it is claimed the Government's €430m flood defence plan will only cover 40,000 of these.