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Saturday 30 August 2014

Stricken communities get brief storms respite

But flood-hit families now battling for aid

Majella O'Sullivan

Published 10/02/2014 | 02:30

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Waves crashing at high tide at Hook Head Lighthouse. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Waves crashing at high tide at Hook Head Lighthouse. Picture Dylan Vaughan.
Skipper Michael Hennessy from Dingle has been unable to take his crew out to sea. Photo: DOMNICK WALSH/EYE FOCUS
Skipper Michael Hennessy from Dingle has been unable to take his crew out to sea. Photo: DOMNICK WALSH/EYE FOCUS
Storm Damage

The country should stay braced for more wet and windy weather – but the last of the furious storms should have passed.

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Met Eireann predicts there will be more breezy and showery episodes with a good deal of rain in the coming days.

However, apart from general wet and windy weather, there are no more storms ahead for the early part of the week.

"The high tides that were causing the problems in the early part of January and again towards the end of the month have passed now for a while, so there's not anything in terms of very high or exceptional tides," said meteorologist Joanna Donnelly from Met Eireann.

"Seas are still quite high at the moment and will probably continue that way for the near future and it's going to continue choppy for quite a while with high swells and high seas, so there's not really much change."

The respite will allow communities to do a full assessment of the damage caused by the recent floods. Farmers, fishermen and homeowners living near waterways are all counting the cost.

However, many will struggle to get compensation because of the strict limits in place for receiving pay-outs.

It was claimed last night that some hard-pressed families struggling to cope with the cost of flood damage to their homes are being excluded from gaining financial help because one parent is working.

Working families surviving on the minimum wage may be outside of the Exceptional Needs Payment because they're not in receipt of social welfare.

Fianna Fail deputy Willie O'Dea said he had been approached by a number of people in Limerick who had been told by their local community welfare officer they wouldn't qualify for any payment because it was subject to means testing.

"It has now emerged the whole thing is being dealt with under the Exceptional Needs Payment, which is means tested, and the problem with this is that you have to be in receipt of social welfare," Mr O'Dea said.

"I've come across a number of people who are on minimum wages who could not get house insurance and what are they to do now?"

HARDSHIP

While the immediate forecast will come as a relief to those mopping up after the floods, the outlook offers little hope for fishermen who have not been able to make a living since early December.

John Nolan, the general manager of Castletownbere Fishermen's Co-op, says its 41 fishing boats have not been out, which is causing extreme hardship to its 300 fishermen based in the Co Cork town, who do not even qualify for social welfare payments. Mr Nolan says that it has also been a struggle for the 90 people employed onshore in the fish factory because when there's no fish, there's no work.

He said while the workers at the factory had been patient, it was a struggle keeping orders when there was no fish.

"We work on the basis of no fish, no work. We got three or four days last week with the pelagic boats and we had some mackerel but that was the first bit of work they got since the first week of December.

"At least they're able to sign on for social welfare for the days they're not working, but the crew on the boats can't," he said.

"We have plenty of organisations for fishermen but it doesn't appear that any of them are representing us or that they're even getting it that these people have been making no money since the storms started in December," he added.

He said that although the fishing industry was resilient, the current spell of bad weather had stretched their resources to the limit.

"And it's also hard to hold on to markets then. We've foreign markets for our product and while they try to understand the weather, if you can't supply them, they'll find it somewhere else."

But Met Eireann can offer no hope on the horizon. Because conditions are so unsettled, with low mobile active systems, accuracy beyond two or three days is reduced greatly.

Forecasters say predicting the outlook towards the weekend is beyond the scope in the current status.

Irish Independent

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