'Now everything is gone' - Business owners count the cost of Storm Eleanor as further flood warnings issued
BUSINESS owners in Galway have been counting the cost of the devastating floods which hit the city yesterday, with the destruction causing hundreds of thousands of euro damage.
As Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran toured the city early this morning, business owners were back at their premises continuing to clean up the flood waters which wreaked havoc in the space on an hour yesterday evening.
However, despite losing out in tens of thousands worth of stock and equipment, business owners were today clear that further warnings would have done little to stop the destruction.
Neil McNeilis who owns Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery on Quay Street saw the water rise to waist level in his shop within minutes.
"We had two customers in the shop when this happened. I had just walked over to the Claddagh and by the time I walked back the water was rising unbelieveably. It was up to my waist in minutes.
“The main flood barrier was up and it did what it was supposed to do but the water surge was so great that it lifted it and it got damaged from the sheer volume of damage and those things are not supposed to get damaged.
“We need a permanent flood defence system. They were out this morning but sandbags wouldn't have stopped that water,” he added.
Mr McNeilis also lost his car in the flood water after it was totally submerged in water. He now has to pull up all floorboards and dump all stock packaging. He also needs to fix the electrics damaged in the flood.
"We're into €10,000 and then my car on top of that. I don't know if I'll get a car loan, I'm self employed. We've worked really hard the last 10 years, we had a really good year last year with the Wild Atlantic Way and everything is now gone. We're starting from scratch," he said.
Binod Karki who owns Kashmir restaurant in the city was also shocked by the sudden surge of water.
“We opened the restaurant as normal and at 5o'clock it just came out of nowhere. It was from everywhere. The back door, kitchen door and side doors. In five minutes it was up to my knees. It was very difficult to get out. We waited a few minutes but it was just rising the whole time. We managed to get up to the upstairs apartment and we were stuck there for two hours and then it started to go down,” he said.
The kitchen, flooring and all stock have been destroyed in the floods with Mr Karki estimating the damage at €20,000.
“It is huge. This was a busy time and we had bought a lot extra. Now it is all lost,” he said.
Joe Hawksley, Manager at Cobwebs Fine and Antique Jewellery was also assessing the damage this morning.
This is the sixth time the shop has been flooded.
“We had just closed at 5pm and within 20 minutes the floods hit. This is the sixth time the shop has been flooded but I haven’t seen it like that before, never that quickly.
“The damage is not as bad as it was in the last flood three or four years ago, we had pulled up the wooden floorboards and replaced them with a concrete floor and tiles so that was ok this time.
“Some electronics have been affected but it’s not too bad. I’ll be opening this morning after I get a coffee. There is a great community here and they are very helpful, we help each other get back on our feet,” he said.
CEO of Galway City Council Brendan McGrath described the flooding as unprecedented adding that all precautions put in place for Storm Ophelia had been in place for Storm Eleanor.
He said the city was now braced for more flooding tomorrow morning when an even higher tide is due.
“What happened yesterday was unprecedented. It was as bad yesterday as 1994 or even earlier. Water came over the bridge there for the first time in living memory. We’ve had contingency plans in place since 2014, since Storm Desmond, they carried us through the red warning of Ophelia, we rolled out the same precautions yesterday,” he said.
Mr McGrath said the flooding was one metre higher than the models had predicted. He said the inflatable flood defence along the Spanish Arch had been in place, all flood gates were up and thousands of sandbags handed out during Storm Ophelia were still available.
“The city did everything it could to avoid flooding. This was unprecedented,” he added.
The city is now bracing itself for further flood threats this evening and most worryingly tomorrow morning when the highest tide is set to hit.
“We are concerned about tonight, we’re hopeful based on the modelling that we’ll get through tonight but tomorrow morning is of particular concern because tomorrow is the biggest high tide in the entire sequence of tides. It’s a question of watching the weather forecast, watching the model and continuing to do what we’re doing,” he added.