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Saturday 17 March 2018

Minister demands unit for national emergencies

Donegal clean-up continues as mother who escaped flood names new son Noah

WATER BABY: Damian and Edel with young Noah
WATER BABY: Damian and Edel with young Noah

Stephen Maguire and Wayne O'Connor

A Government minister has warned that Ireland needs a dedicated agency to handle emergency situations, in the wake of last week's major floods in Donegal.

Last night, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Minister of State for the OPW and Flood Relief, said it was time for the Government to follow other European nations and establish a single agency that would be responsible for the security and medical responses in the case of a national emergency.

Mr Moran said the State response to catastrophic events such as major floods needed to be handled and co-ordinated within a single Government department.

His remarks came as more than 500 families in the north-west deal with catastrophic damage to homes and businesses in the wake of flash floods last Tuesday night.

"The Government agency would oversee emergency services and protect people during natural disasters. Its primary aim would be to provide a rapid response in the case of emergencies," said Mr Moran.

"The agency would consist of all the relevant organisations including gardai, Defence Forces, Civil Defence, the HSE and the various Government departments.

"This is particularly important where houses have become uninhabitable and people need help urgently.

"A dedicated agency would have the personnel to get on the ground in the immediate aftermath of a major event which would be reassuring to those in dire need of help."

Meanwhile, a woman who escaped the torrential floods on a tractor has given birth to a baby boy - and she is calling him Noah.

Edel Kerin was stranded in the town of Clonmany when flooding struck the Inishowen Peninsula last Tuesday evening. The 35-year-old was due to give birth on the day the floods struck.

She was with her sister Danielle, who is also six months pregnant, and her daughters Emma (6) and Lauren (2), when the area was engulfed with water. They were desperate to check on their parents who live in Urris, when local man Nathan Noone came to their rescue and drove all four in his tractor back to the family home.

Edel's husband Damian (38) spent last Wednesday cleaning up his parents' home in Cockhill, Buncrana, after also becoming stranded when he got word that the baby was on the way .

Damian was ordered to pack the bags for Letterkenny General Hospital as Edel went into labour with the couple's third child. Just after 1.30pm last Thursday, the couple's first son was born, weighing in at 8lb 4oz.

Damian revealed how the couple just could not resist naming their new bundle of joy Noah.

"We had thought about a number of different names. Noah was one of them because my dad's name is Noel and Edel's is Anthony.

"We just thought that with the week that it was in and all the biblical connections, we would name him Noah," said Damian.

Mum and baby Noah were discharged yesterday and returned to their home in Heather Park, Buncrana. Both mother and baby are doing well and Damian said they were looking forward to telling their son how he got his name and of the eventful hours before he arrived.

"I was stranded and couldn't get to Edel and the girls but they are fine considering all they've been through. In fact, the girls wanted to get on the tractor and do the journey again, which is great considering all they'd been through.

"Obviously, Noah wasn't around but we're really looking forward to telling him all about it when he is old enough to understand," added Damian.

The Red Cross warned that as many as 500 homes in Donegal were affected by the flash flooding. The society is working on a support scheme to provide emergency humanitarian support to small businesses and local community groups affected by the floods after receiving a request from the Government.

"The details of the scheme are not yet known but it is anticipated that Government will make an announcement concerning these details next week," said a Red Cross spokesman.

"It is understood that the scheme will be similar to the scheme administered by the Irish Red Cross on behalf of Government in 2015-2016. Once the scheme details are announced, application forms will be accessible via the Irish Red Cross website and relevant Government websites."

The Department of Social Protection has a scheme in place for householders affected by the floods, but Mr Moran said the clean-up operation would be enormous.

Additional Defence Forces personnel were in the area yesterday, helping clear debris for the second day in a row.

Sunday Independent

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