Thousands of litres of raw sewage pour onto the streets of Athlone as locals battle filthy flood waters
Published 10/12/2015 | 10:42
Raw sewage is visible on the streets of Athlone as locals on the riverside had a close call with dirty flood waters last night.
One local described how he pumped up to 500 litres a minute of raw sewage from his garden after it seeped up from a man-hole in his patio yesterday evening.
The young man said he was in the sewage on his hands and knees in the garden trying to keep the pumps working and the dirty water from his back door.
The remnants of waste and toilet paper litter the Strand area of Athlone town this morning as locals continue to work on flood defences.
Several pumps are stationed around the town while thousands of sandbags line doorways and garden gates.
The River Shannon, which burst its banks yesterday evening, is now just five and six feet from some of the doorways on WolfeTone Terrace in the Strand area.
Locals have used boards and sandbags to create several walls of defence between the river wall and their front doors.
Independent Alliance councillor Kevin 'Boxer' Moran said the biggest threat to Athlone at the moment is the wind.
"We have all our defences in place and both the council and locals are continuing to work hard," he told Independent.ie.
"I am worried about the threat of sewage on the streets and I'm worried about the strength of walls that back onto Parnell Square but I must say the biggest threat at the moment now is the wind.
"We have our sandbags in place but if the wind disrupts that or brings the river in over it, we're in big trouble."
But the councillor is confident of the defences in place in the town centre and said he's hopeful the floodwaters will recede without major damage.
"I said if we can get through Wednesday night we can get through anything.
"We were all holding tough for last night and thankfully it passed and we made it through without damage done.
"We know the water well around here - we know they're saying Sunday or Monday for the water level peak but from what we can see so far, we're sure it'll be Saturday that the water will peak."
Sean Flynn of Flynn Funeral Homes in the Strand area said they have their business and home emptied in anticipation of the flood waters.
They were forced to move out of their home for four months after the flooding in 2009.
"We got the pumps into the area on Monday.
"We've emptied the house now of all the heavy furniture and we have nothing left in the funeral home.
"We're well prepared. It's the filth that worries me. In 2009, there was dirty toilet paper and everything left on the roads."
Meanwhile, in The Park housing estate in west Athlone, resident Shirley Keenan described the area as a 'pond just waiting to be filled'.
The housing estate is just 20 feet from the canal and three pumps are currently preventing the rising water from reaching the houses' doors.
The mother-of-two's home was flooded in 2009 and the family were forced to move out of their home for a year.
They have been unable to get flood insurance since.
She said locals in the area are calling for flood prevention measures to be put in place.
"What we need is prevention and. long-term plan," she said.
"I'm a homeowner and I have no flood insurance.
"The last floods were six years ago and since then we've been living in worthless properties.
"These houses used to be worth €250,000 and now they're worth nothing.
"I would rather the Government took half a million euro from this €10m they've promised after the floods and used it now to prevent the floods.
"Take the gamble and use it now and see if this can be prevented again instead of promising us all this money after the damage is done."
An emergency meeting of Westmeath county council is being held at 11am to discuss the current situation in Athlone.
In a statement released today, the county council said that: "Water levels in the River Shannon are continuing to rise slowly and are being monitored by Westmeath County Council. Over the last 24 hours, water levels increased by approximately 80mm and to date, no houses have been flooded.
"The Council is in receipt of an ESB forecast of river levels for the next four days and it is expected that water levels will reach 39.60mOD by Monday 14th of December 2015. It should be noted that this represents an increase of 310mm above current levels and would be close to the maximum level recorded in 2009.
"The current flooding in Athlone is having a severe effect on a small portion of the town but the effects are localised and there is no impact on the town at large. All transport links, streets, car parks and commercial areas are operating normally and will continue to do so.
"Westmeath County Council has activated its Flood Emergency Response Plan and a meeting of the interagency Response Committee is held each day at 11am.
"At today’s meeting, chaired by Westmeath County Council and attended by representatives of An Garda Siochána, Irish Water, the Defence Forces and the HSE, it was agreed that the agencies would continue to assist people to protect their homes and businesses, to provide transport where this is required and to provide other humanitarian assistance. At the meeting, Irish Water advised that there is no issue with the quality of water supplied through the public system at the present time.
In the Deerpark area of Athlone, Irish Defence Forces are delivering sandbags to locals' doors.
The sandbags are being filled in the car park of a local supermarket before members of the Defence Forces deliver them to schools and homes.
There are two army trucks stationed in the Deerpark estate.
Some residents have created their own flood defences, with one homeowner using a tractor and a pump in his back garden to keep rising waters from his back door.
A nearby GAA pitch is currently under at least three feet of water.
Ireland's 'oldest bar' Sean's Bar is also successful so far in keeping rising waters from the nearby River Shannon at bay.
The Civil Defence are patrolling the River Shannon in the town centre and monitoring water levels.
The river is currently approximately six feet higher than its normal level.