APPEARING to exceed even the one-in-a- 100-year event as posited by flood-risk managers, the River Arra’s flashflooding was an unprecedented happening, the result of a massive and sustained cloudburst over the region through Thursday night and Friday morning.
Wreaking millions of euros worth of damage on Newcastle West and surrounding areas and towns in Co Limerick and North Cork, as rivers burst their banks in the early hours of Friday morning, the rainfall will now be afforded a place in the history books.
Newcastle West was the most dramatically hit, and the scene of incredible devastation on Friday; its transformation from a pretty heritage town to disaster zone almost total.
Among the most arresting evidence of the flood power was a truck left perched on a riverwall in the North Quay, cars swept downriver and the homes and businesses destroyed in a flurry of silt and ruined fittings.
Breaking its banks at roughly 2am on Friday, the River Arra surged through the town, flooding homes and submerging the North Quay area in water up to 12 feet at one location.
As emergency services rushed to the aid of the stricken population, five residents of the 8,000-strong town were airlifted to safety and countless others helped evacuate their homes and those of neighbours in a display of an indomitable community spirit.
The result of a record rainfall of 93mm, or nearly four inches, the Arra flood did not begin receding until after 7am on Friday morning.
Some locals have called on the government to help support homeowners left struggling to repair their lives and homes without insurance.
While Minister of State Martin Mansergh, visited the town on Friday, he would not commit to any promise of emergency- relief — however, it was evident from his reaction that the sheer scale of the devastation would be conveyed to the cabinet.
Given the lack of a warning, either in recent times or historically, Newcastle West was taken completely by surprise. A senior OPW source said the flashflood appeared to exceed even the ‘one-in-a-hundred- year’ flood event posited by flood-risk engineers in planning relief schemes.
“That is a one per cent chance event and, looking at the Arra flood at this early stage, it would appear to have even exceeded this. It really was an extreme and unprecedented event,” they said.
A massive response is now being taken across several agencies, not least Limerick County Council, as the Arra system is surveyed and plans to reduce the chances of such a flood ever happening again are put