Wednesday 16 January 2019

'I had to use buckets of snow to wash myself' - Struggles of people left without water for a week

Private Mark Fitzpatrick, Private Kevin McKerr and Cpl John Rooney, from the 27th battalion in Dundalk, clearing snow from Blessington village in Wicklow. Photo: Damien Eagers
Private Mark Fitzpatrick, Private Kevin McKerr and Cpl John Rooney, from the 27th battalion in Dundalk, clearing snow from Blessington village in Wicklow. Photo: Damien Eagers
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Being trapped inside with no running water for nearly a week was a frightening reality for some people living in Wicklow and Kildare.

While the country is beginning to shake off the effects of Storm Emma, thick snow on higher ground continues to wreak havoc in communities like Blessington and Kilteel.

Blessington horticulturist Jimi Blake told the Irish Independent that he had no running water for nearly a week.

"We were really hit badly and my entire garden was covered with about seven feet of snow," he said.

"The water only came back on last night, but I was left for nearly a week without it, or [no] gas, and had no way to cook.

"I brought in several buckets and filled them with snow to use for the toilet and to wash myself.

"Luckily, I had gallons of drinking water and food to keep me going, but I had to ration them."

When the snow began to thaw, Mr Blake, who runs Hunting Brook Gardens, found the frozen pipe outside his home and managed to successfully restore his water supply.

But Martina Manus from Blackrock in Blessington said she was still struggling without running water.

Speaking from her snow-covered driveway, she said: "I haven't left my driveway since last Tuesday; the snow is just too high.

"My water has been gone for about a week, but thankfully my neighbours are bringing up gallon containers for me.

"I don't think my pipes are frozen because people around here have running water - I think there must be a leak somewhere," she said.

Wicklow County Council said that water consumption had increased by 14pc over the last week, but strongly urged the public to conserve water in order to avoid disruption to supplies.

Yesterday, about 60 members of the Defence Forces helped the council to clear compacted snow and ice in the towns of Blessington and Roundwood.

Lt Connor O'Brien, of the 27th Battalion, described the past couple of days as "hectic".

"There has been so much snow around here that's accumulated over the past, but the troops have been happy to get stuck in and help out.

"We're now on standby for another couple of days, but there's still a good bit more work to be done," he said.

In Kildare, strenuous efforts were also being made to clear as many roads as possible.

More than 100 snow-clearing machines were used by both Kildare County Council and the Defence Forces to bring the worst-affected areas back to normality.

James Byrne, a volunteer with Kildare Civil Defence, was just one out of 50 Civil Defence personnel delivering supplies to families who had no way of travelling due to the snow and ice.

One man said it took him more than two hours to walk to his local shops.

"I was walking through mountains of snow and had a very difficult time carrying the shopping bags home - it must have taken over two hours.

"We didn't have snow drifts like this back in 2010 so it's much harder to get around now.

"But I have to say that the council and Army are doing a really great job to clear the roads and we're all very grateful for their help," he said.

In a statement, Irish Water said it continued to appeal to customers all across the country to conserve water at this time.

"Increasing demand coupled with weather-related bursts and leaks has resulted in our water treatment plants running at capacity, which could lead to even more outages and restrictions in the coming week," it said.

Irish Independent

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