Business owners demand a solution to repeated devastation from storms
The main course for diners at Kumar’s restaurant on Tuesday was to run from the surge, writes Caroline Crawford
Ram Kumar is no stranger to flooding. He saw his Galway restaurant, Kumar's Taste of Asia, almost ruined in 2014.
Despite having been flooded several times, he says he has never seen anything like the water surge that occurred last Tuesday.
His 16 customers were enjoying dinner when water started gushing in the door.
"I looked out and saw the water coming towards us, all from the docks-side of the street. I just told everyone to get out as quickly as possible. The water was over my knees in three minutes," he said.
The restaurateur managed to get everyone out through a side door as the building quickly filled up.
"Within five minutes everything was gone. All the kitchen fridges, all the food, carpets and tables. I have never seen it flood so badly. It came so suddenly - it was like a river," he said.
He estimates the damage could cost €20,000-€25,000.
"At least my customers and staff are all safe, but the damage was worse than anything before. Even the pictures were ruined," he said.
Mr Kumar's car was also destroyed by the floods - lifted by the flood waters into two bollards. It remains full of water.
He thanked his neighbouring businesses, Boojum and Thai Garden, which provided shelter and food for his freezing staff.
"They were very good to us, and the city council has been wonderful. Nobody could have anticipated this flood. The council was down right away, opening the drains and clearing the water with us," he said.
Mr Kumar spent the rest of the week clearing out and again replacing large kitchen appliances. While he is back in business, he fears further floods.
"We have no insurance," he said. "We couldn't afford to stay closed over the week but we had no choice. We simply cannot afford for this to keep happening."
His story is not unique: as the entire west coast recovers from Storm Eleanor, the clean-up bill will run into hundreds of thousands of Euro.
The City of the Tribes fared worst and its business community and residents are now demanding the building of permanent defences.
Dozens of businesses and cars were destroyed in the sudden surge that rushed through the city.
Business owners told how the waters gushed into their premises, reaching waist height in minutes.
Cars parked in Toft car park, Salthill, and in the car park next to Jury's hotel were submerged and completely destroyed.
Even a temporary flood defence along the Spanish Arch was damaged by the surge.
All floodgates were in place and thousands of sandbags distributed during Storm Ophelia were still available, according to Galway City Council CEO Brendan McGrath. The flooding was up to a metre higher than the models had predicted, he said.
"We can cope in the city with a 5.6-5.8m storm tide, but on Tuesday we believe it was in excess of 6.5m - utterly unprecedented."
Business owners and the local authority are now calling for more permanent flood defences. The council has warned that 890 properties in the city are at serious risk, 670 of them people's homes.
Medium-term defences are estimated to need around €10m, according to the city council.
Businesses have warned they could be forced to leave historic parts of the city without adequate defences.
Maeve Joyce Crehan, general manager of the Galway Chamber of Commerce, said permanent defences are now vital.
"It's not popular to talk about putting up permanent structures but we need to address this. These types of events are happening more often. This is the most amazing part of Galway city but you will find people and businesses will depopulate it if proper defences are not put in place."
Kevin Moran, the minister with responsibility for flood relief, this week reiterated the need for funding for defences for the entire country.
Almost 50 relief schemes to protect nearly 8,000 homes will be revealed later this month, but almost 100 more plans are not yet being considered.