Householders left without any drinking water until next week

Ralph Riegel

MORE than 50,000 householders in Cork will have to do without running water supplies until next weekend at the earliest -- and drinking water may not be restored until early next week.

The grim warning came as civic leaders, emergency services as well as Army and Navy personnel moved to co-ordinate the vast clean-up and repair effort in the wake of the city's worst floods in 800 years.

Cork City Council last night warned its main priority now was to address Cork's sanitation crisis, with 18,000 homes effectively unable to flush toilets or operate hygiene facilities.

The Naval Service yesterday moved a patrol vessel to the city quays to act as a logistic support base for the flood relief effort.

Navy engineers are now also assisting Cork hospitals to ensure they have round-the-clock water supplies.

Army personnel are supporting gardai, Cork City Council staff and volunteers in the distribution of water to the sick, elderly and disabled.

Cork City Council warned its "best-case scenario" now was a restoration of running water by next weekend, but that timetable could slip to next week.

The council confirmed water supplies were available in all county areas, but precautionary 'boil water' notices will remain in place in four west Cork areas for several days.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen toured the flood-damaged parts of Cork city centre yesterday as the city council confirmed its engineers were working round the clock to get the damaged Lee Fields water station back online.

Lord Mayor Dara Murphy said council and emergency personnel had worked "heroically" over the past four days -- but he stressed that "serious questions now needed to be answered about the precise cause of the flooding".


City council official Valerie Sullivan said engineers finally gained access to the Lee Fields Water station on Sunday evening. However, it will take up to 36 hours to properly dismantle and dry out all its machinery.

The city council said it was not yet clear if the machinery involved could be repaired or if it would have to be replaced.

Cork fireman and SIPTU official, Noel Heaney, said the service was fighting a losing battle against the floods due to their lack of equipment.

"We are lacking national standard (equipment) in terms of dealing with heavy flooding -- things like high volume pumps," he said.

Businesses, meanwhile, yesterday began counting the cost of the devastating floods with some insurance assessors indicating that Cork's flood repair bill could top €100m.

The Kingsley Hotel -- recently refurbished at a cost of €30m -- will remain closed for the immediate future while repair estimates are prepared.

The hotel staff and guests had to be evacuated early last Friday morning due to the raging flood waters. Director Seamus Heaney said the damage inflicted on the facility was "absolutely heartbreaking".

"Timber floors have buckled, marble tiles have lifted and there is huge electrical damage and to fittings and furnishings on the ground floor. It is untold damage, to be perfectly honest, and we will be closed for quite a while," he said.

However, as the flood waters receded, other premises re-opened after emergency repairs.

The Mercy University Hospital (MUH) re-opened its A&E unit, while gardai indicated that most city centre roads that were closed at the height of the flooding were likely to re-open by today.

Patients scheduled for elective operations are now being called for their procedures at MUH.

City council engineers are now conducting an emergency inspection of the Grenville Place quay wall which collapsed at 2am last Friday at the height of the flood, diverting the River Lee down one of Cork's busiest shopping areas.

All Cork schools without running water are expected to remain closed until supplies are restored.