'Hero' workers keep flood waters out of town
Published 14/01/2010 | 05:00
Contractors working for the Office of Public Works (OPW) were hailed as heroes yesterday for working round-the-clock to save a flood-vulnerable town from a second disastrous deluge in three months as Cork city and county were again hammered by floods.
OPW contractors -- employed on Fermoy's flood relief plan -- suspended construction work to reinforce the town's river barriers amid major flood warnings.
The River Blackwater struggled to cope with a near-record influx of water due to torrential rain and melting snow. In Millstreet, upstream of Fermoy, river levels doubled in just a few hours. The OPW contractors worked throughout Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning in Fermoy to reinforce river barriers.
In vulnerable areas, the barriers were increased in height by up to 18 inches (45.7cm). In addition, the contractors used industrial water pumps, and ensured floodwater was immediately returned from low-lying areas to the main river channel.
While the Blackwater did breach its banks and flood Ashe Quay and fields beside the town park, the emergency flood barriers held and the town centre was spared major flooding.
Cork Labour TD Sean Sherlock hailed the workers as heroes and said their efforts, like those of others throughout Ireland, had shown the chaotic weather had brought out the best of community spirit. "Without these workers the flood would have been very serious indeed in Fermoy and traders would have been facing into massive losses for the second time in just over 10 weeks," he said. "Their efforts, and the efforts of other volunteers around Ireland, have been crucial in avoiding further weather disasters," he added.
However, gardai had to restrict access to parts of the town because of flooding.
On November 19 and 20 last, Fermoy suffered massive flood damage when the Blackwater broke its banks and flooded the town centre.
Meanwhile, in Cork city, traders said they were fed up with water-related problems after a nightmare three months. Shopkeeper Frances O'Brien has been trying to run her business despite having been without water twice since November 20 -- once for almost two weeks following the River Lee floods. "We're all fed up of water, floods, snow and ice," she said.