Saturday 22 October 2016

Over 50mm of torrential rain leaves southwest facing further flooding

Published 12/12/2015 | 13:51

Members of the Irish Army filling sandbags in Castleconnell to protect against flooding in the area. Picture: Arthur Carron
Members of the Irish Army filling sandbags in Castleconnell to protect against flooding in the area. Picture: Arthur Carron

TORRENTIAL rainfall of up to 50mm has left the south-west facing a renewed flood threat over the next 24 hours.

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Local authorities, Civil Defence, Gardai, the Defence Forces and the ESB are now monitoring major river valleys across Cork, Kerry and Limerick on an hourly basis amid fears the latest deluge, combined with high tides today and tomorrow, could provoke further damaging floods.

Cork and Kerry have received almost 220mm of rain over the past week – the equivalent of more than four months rainfall.

In west Cork, water levels in the River Bandon have receded after it broke its banks last weekend and caused major damage to Bandon.

However, major attention is now focussed on the River Lee, River Blackwater and River Funcheon.

High tides occur in Cork over the next 24 hours and low-lying parts of Cork city have been warned that flooding could occur if wind conditions are unfavourable.

The ESB is maintaining water discharges from both the Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid reservoirs upstream of Cork city – but stressed they are closely liaising with Cork City and Co Councils over water levels downstream.

The level of discharge was increased last Monday in a desperate bid to lower reservoir levels given the huge build-up of water in the upper Lee valley.

The ESB is now maintaining a water release rate of 180 tonnes per second compared to 150 tonnes per second last week.

ESB official Tom Brown said the discharges are being very carefully monitored.

“We are keeping a very close eye on it and keeping in close contact with local authorities about what happens.”

However, experts said they believe that a repeat of the disastrous floods of 2009 and 2014 in Cork is unlikely.

As a precautionary measure, Cork Co Council has deployed heavy duty water pumping equipment to vulnerable west Cork towns.

Bandon suffered its third damaging bout of flooding in six years last week with its long-delayed flood relief scheme not set to reach construction phase until mid 2016.

Local hotelier, Don O’Sullivan, whose premises was left under 45cm (18 inches) of water, warned that more needs to be done.

“We were promised after the disaster of 2009 that this would never be allowed happen again,” he told the Sunday Independent.

“But here we are again, coming up to our busiest time of the year, doing yet another clean up. It’s heartbreaking for traders.”

Businesswoman Margaret Daly, whose saw both her shop and her home destroyed by the flood waters last week, warned that the town’s economic future is now at stake.

“For years we’ve heard nothing but excuses and broken promises. If they don’t do something now, Bandon will be left with grass growing up over its main street.”

Defence Minister Simon Coveney, who toured flood-hit parts of Cork last week, vowed that every possible State resource is now being deployed.

“Defence Force units have been in place all week and everything possible will be done to help people affected by the floods and the weather,” he said.

Defence Force units equipped with high-axle trucks are now deployed throughout the mid-west and are on standby in Cork and Kerry for flooding.

Office of Public Works (OPW) Minister Simon Harris will tour the flood-hit town of Bandon in west Cork next week amid warnings that the five year investment of €430m in flood defences nationwide is simply not enough.

Former OPW Minister Brian Hayes warned that Ireland dramatically had to “ramp-up” flood defence spending given the increasing threat posed by climate change.

While Bandon and Skibbereen in west Cork will receive flood defence schemes, the single biggest investment will be the €60m flood protection plan for Cork city.

That represents the largest flood project ever undertaken by the OPW.

Mr Coveney insisted that flood defence schemes work.

“The OPW now has a ten year programme in place to spend a very significant amount of money on flood relief.”

“The programmes that have been put together in towns like Clonmel, Fermoy and Mallow have been hugely successful.”

“Those towns are not getting flooded now even though we had huge volumes of water falling over recent days. But we need to replicate that now as quickly as we can in places like Bandon, Skibbereen and other vulnerable towns nationwide.”

The problem in towns like Bandon is compounded by the fact 90pc of the traders and householders affected do not have flood cover.

IFA flood welfare official, Tom Turley, said farmers are also facing a grim winter given the fact thousands of acres are now under floodwaters particularly in the Shannon basin.

"The No 1 priority is the welfare of the animals. Indeed their welfare for those in houses who are living close to or in the flood plain," he said.

"But we are also concerned for their (landowners) own mental state.

That is as much at stake as anything else. People have gone through this before and they were promised it would never happen again."

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