Wednesday 22 November 2017

Government's €15m flood victims' fund to be 'straightforward and unbureaucratic'

Flooding near Montpellier, Co Limerick.
Flooding near Montpellier, Co Limerick.
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Homes and businesses affected by Storm Desmond and the aftermath of severe flooding are to receive €15m in humanitarian help from the Government.

The move comes as the country's at-risk areas are set to expect the worst flooding in 20 years over the next 48 hours.

Two separate multi-million euro funds have been opened up to those who have been affected by the extreme weather conditions since the weekend.

In an unprecedented move, the Government will fast-track the funding to ensure families and small businesses will receive aid as soon as possible.

A total of €10m will be funded to households through community welfare offices, while €5m has been designated to support small businesses.

Tony Lawlor of the Irish Red Cross welcomed the move and said the funding aims to be as "straightforward and unbureaucratic as possible".

"The particulars have yet to be worked out and as we have information on the criteria, it will be published," he told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland.

"It's envisaged that this process will be as straightforward and unbureaucratic as possible.

"Some of the details will be worked out, but the information we have to hand is that there will be over €10m in a humanitarian fund for households which will be given to people through the normal community welfare offices. This doesn't relate to the Irish Red Cross.

"It was confirmed yesterday evening that €5m will be made available to the Irish Red Cross as supports for small businesses, particularly in towns with specific flooding issues.

"This includes businesses that haven't been able to get insurance."

Defence Minister Simon Coveney told the Irish Examiner the move was unprecedented.

"We have made a decision that has never been made before which is to support businesses that have been hit hard by floods and don't have insurance."

Cork flood protection campaigner, Barry Keane, warned the current flood aid system is far too cumbersome.

"After the disastrous floods in Cork city in November 2009, some families didn't get assistance until early 2010. That is far too long," he said.

Mr Keane also argued that the Department of Social Protection should play a far greater role in the aid distribution.

Meanwhile, the Irish Red Cross agency is braced for what could be the worst flooding in 50 years.

"We have volunteers working across the country, they are already deployed in Mayo, Galway, Cork and Athlone," Mr Lawlor said.

"With the impending rise of water levels in the Shannon, there is a potential risk of flooding in towns along the Shannon including Athlone, Portumna and parts of Limerick like Montpellier and Castleconnel.

"Our concern would be to work with statutory authorities and defence forces to support their efforts.

"The meterological data would show that this level of flooding has not been seen in the Shannon area for 20 years, possibly 50."

"The fact that it has manifested in different locations and it's now moving into the Midlands and it's an evolving situation over a number of days... it may well be associated with climate change.

"In terms of our response, it's more of the engaged ones we've had with statutory authorities."

He added: "There are certainly hundreds [of homes at risk of losing drinking water], some already linked to areas of boil water notices.

"Irish Red Cross is donating quantities of bottled water from Tipperary Water to those in Athlone, Portumna and Limerick county.

"We have already distributed some in Ballinasloe and also in Bandon.

"It is a supplementary emergency measure."

Flood warnings remain in place as continuing rainfall also swells streams, rivers and reservoirs across the west and south-west. New weather warnings were issued for the West as 20-35mm of additional rainfall was expected in Connacht, Donegal, Clare and Kerry today.

Gusts of up to 100km/h are forecast nationwide.

The National Emergency Coordination Centre have said there is a 'high risk' of flooding from Limerick City to Athlone.

More than 2,000 sandbags have been distributed by Limerick City and County Council to areas at most risk in the Shannon catchment including: Castleconnel, Montpelier and the Mountshannon Road in Lisnagry. The Shannon flood risk is the worst in 20 years.

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