Sunday 23 October 2016

Storm Frank: Fatigue sets in as even more storms on the way

Kevin Doyle and Wayne O'Connor

Published 31/12/2015 | 02:30

Maureen Dowd is rescued from her home in Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, during severe flooding in the picturesque village. Photo: Pat Moore
Maureen Dowd is rescued from her home in Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, during severe flooding in the picturesque village. Photo: Pat Moore

Emergency workers and volunteers who are at the point of fatigue after three weeks of unrelenting storms have been warned there is no end in sight.

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As families in flood-stricken towns across the country came to terms with the devastating aftermath of Storm Frank, forecasters said the early days of 2016 will bring more misery.

And the flood experts said that, even after the rain does eventually stop, river levels will continue to rise for some time.

Communities in Cork, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and along the River Shannon woke up to a scene akin to a warzone yesterday.

And, as the clean-up operation swung into action yet again, Met Éireann's Gerald Fleming said more heavy rain is on the way.

"We will probably have a respite of a couple of days and then we are back into another wet and windy period next weekend. How severe that will be remains to be seen.

"There is no real sign of an end to this wet, unsettled and windy weather that will last into the middle of next week," he said.

A major concern now is that crews trying to put sandbags in place and pump water away from homes and businesses have been working around the clock for weeks.

Minister of State Simon Harris, who visited Athlone and Kilkenny yesterday, said: "People are absolutely exhausted. It's very evident to see it on their faces, to see the strain, to see the stress, to see the frustration.

"The army are available to assist, the Coastguard has made it clear they are available to assist - anything the agencies can do to assist volunteers who are physically exhausted."

Chairman of the National Emergency Coordination Group, John Barry, echoed that, saying: "With the situation having gone on for some period, fatigue becomes an issue.

"Arrangements are being put in place with local authorities to make sure that personnel do have a chance to rest while the operation is still going on."

The Government is to bring all of the agencies involved in managing the Shannon together next week to see what interim measures can be put in place to alleviate future flooding while permanent flood defence structures are put in place.

Of the 300 areas in the country identified by the Office of Public Works as being at risk of flooding, 66 are in the Shannon's catchment area.

"People have been talking about solving the problem of flooding along the Shannon since DeValera was in power. We will have 66 plans for the Shannon by next summer," Mr Harris said.

There were dramatic scenes in the Kilkenny town of Graiguenamanagh in Kilkenny in the early hours of yesterday morning as people were forced to flee for their lives after the river Barrow and Duiske stream burst their banks and washed through the town.

Mr Harris met with residents last night and informed them that design engineers will be in the town as soon as next week to start work on a pilot scheme that will allow at-risk homes get individual flood walls.

The head of the OPW's Hydrology and Coastal Section, Jim Casey, said that water levels were rising significantly on most rivers across the country.

"Those rises are set to continue for a number of days yet. Just because the rain may have stopped it does not mean that the rivers will immediately fall. They will continue to rise for a number of days. We are still in a serious flood situation," he said.

Gardaí are urging people to travel during daylight hours, as many roads around the country remain badly flooded and damaged.

People attending events as part of the New Year celebrations and charity events such as swims are also being asked to put safety first.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said: "The New Year is a very festive time. An awful lot of activities are going to be taking place and we are asking all of the organisers of those events, given the weather that is being projected in the coming days, to consider those events.

"In some of those cases it might be the best option not to have them."

Irish Independent

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