Thursday 22 March 2018

'Once in 1,000 years' deluge caused €130m of damage

Lancaster Quay in Cork city lies under water following huge flooding in November 2009
Lancaster Quay in Cork city lies under water following huge flooding in November 2009
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The floods which devastated Cork city centre in November 2009 were described as a "once in a 1,000 years" disaster.

Torrential rainfall and high tides swamped drains and then the ESB's release of water from Inniscarra Dam, which was done for safety reasons given the water building up in the Lee Valley, left Ireland's lowest-lying city totally unable to cope with the deluge.

The River Lee broke its banks along several city centre channels in the early hours of the morning and the flood assumed disastrous proportions when a quay wall collapsed at Grenville Place, near the Mercy University Hospital (MUH), under the extreme water pressure.

Entire sections of the city centre were left under almost one metre of flood waters - and MUH had to be partially evacuated.

Homes and businesses across almost one half of the city centre were left under flood waters.

The floods gushed through the Grenville Quay breach with the city centre effectively becoming a new channel of the River Lee.

The flood waters also breached the city's main water treatment plant just off the Mardyke.

It was left inoperable and more than 60,000 city residents found themselves without normal drinking water supplies.

Some were left without normal water supplies for weeks.

The damage to the MUH alone was estimated at €1.2m.

Massive damage was also caused to Cork Courthouse on Washington Street, while University College Cork, which sits astride a channel of the River Lee, also suffered major damage, particularly to its prized Glucksman Gallery.

For Cork traders and residents, it was a nightmare made worse by the fact it occurred at the height of Ireland's recession.

Cork Business Association (CBA) estimated that the total cost of damage caused by the flood was between €120m and €130m.

In a city all too familiar with flood damage, the sheer scale of the devastation exceeded anything ever seen before in Cork's nine-century history.

Cork has suffered four floods since 2009 but none caused anything like the same amount of damage.

The city is now the focus of a €50m flood protection plan designed by the Office of Public Works.

However, repeated delays to the design and scale of the plan have meant Cork residents and traders face at least another two years of flood risks before the new defences begin to take shape.

Irish Independent

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