Tuesday 6 December 2016

'We're living in third-world times,' says flood victim (75)

Published 15/12/2015 | 02:30

Mick Dunning standing in the floodwaters around his home at Carrick O’Brien, Athlone.
Mick Dunning standing in the floodwaters around his home at Carrick O’Brien, Athlone.
Michael and Patty Macken prepare to abandon their flooded home at Carrick O’Brien by tractor with the help of their son Paul. Photos: Frank Mc Grath
Meshick Jaftha from South Africa navigates floods near Athlone. Photo: Frank McGrath

Paul Macken's elderly mother's feet were submerged in water as he drove her back to her home on a tractor up a long flooded lane.

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He was preparing to move his 75-year-old parents, Michael and Patty, from their home last night as many of their services - including their bathroom - are no longer functioning and he feared it would become inaccessible overnight if any more rain came.

When the Irish Independent visited them in their home last week they were determined to fight the deluge. But the situation got worse over the weekend and the water levels have steadily continued to rise, a stark reminder of the floods of 2009, which forced the Mackens out of their home.

"Since the weekend, our only transport out has been the tractor and now we are at the stage where the tractor won't be any good any more. The brakes are gone and the water is getting into it," Patty said.

"The housing officer in the council gave me his number if I want to ring him and see what is available."

However, her husband is keen to stay to keep the fire lit to keep the house warm - as their home is now surrounded almost entirely by water. The river is normally around 100 metres from their home, but last night it was less than several feet away.

Patty is determined they won't be forgotten during the clean-up and said a long-term solution must be found as they can't get house insurance.

"When the water goes away, is it possible it will be forgotten? We don't want this forgotten," she said.

"I am very frustrated. I can't do anything. It is like I am on my holidays here now, I can't do anything.

"I am a prisoner in my own home."

Her son Paul, who is a haulier, has been forced to take time out from work to help them. He has three young children who have to travel to school in a truck.

The sewage system in their home has also been affected and the family has been provided with a portable toilet in the garden by local councillor John Dolan.

While the water has not entered his house yet, just yards from his parents, Paul is determined not to leave as he fears it will be burgled.

Paul, who is married to Elaine, has been assisting Cllr Dolan to help the community.

Every day they drive to their neighbours to ensure they are okay, to check if they have enough sandbags or if they need to move from their home.

Community spirit has been the only silver lining in this very dark cloud for the rural area of Carrick O'Brien, just outside Athlone.

The Mackens are used to flooding in their garden, but have never seen it as bad as this before: "We are back to third-world times. This is the second bad flood. It will be lapping that hedge [in the back garden], it might be in the two fields at the front but it wouldn't be covering the road," Patty added.

"It's better to sing grief than to cry it," his father Michael added, as he helped his wife out of the tractor with her suitcase.

Westmeath County Council yesterday warned the River Shannon remained at a high level through Athlone and its hinterland and was approximately 60cm above normal winter flow levels.

Council workers are continuing to coordinate a large inter-agency response to the current conditions with assistance from the Defence Forces, Civil Defence, An Garda Síochána, Irish Water, the Department of Social Protection and the HSE, it added.

Irish Independent

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