Monday 23 April 2018

'We were blessed that no one was injured or killed' - Taoiseach visits flood victims

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inspects the Glentogher River, which the floods caused to move from the site underneath him to several feet away. Carndonagh, Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inspects the Glentogher River, which the floods caused to move from the site underneath him to several feet away. Carndonagh, Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Ian Begley

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar flew to Donegal this afternoon to visit the communities devastated by flooding.

Mr Varadkar arrived at Caradonagh via Aer Corps helicopter and visited affected residents and emergency services involved in the large scale clean-up.

Speaking to the media, he said: “I wanted to visit here myself to see the scale of the damage and meet some of the residential home owners and business people affected. I think you need to see it to understand the scale of the damage that has been done."

More than 100 people had to be rescued from cars and houses due to sudden flash flooding in Donegal, Tyrone and Derry on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Across Inishowen alone, the scale of the disaster was described as unprecedented and catastrophic, with the Irish Government opening an emergency fund for immediate assistance and clean-up. The damage is expected to run up a repair bill in the multi-millions.

More than 150 households were affected in Donegal. People needing financial help for food and everyday essentials, cleaning, structural work and white goods were urged to apply at welfare offices.

In Derry, more than 200 households reported needing assistance following flooding. Dozens of businesses were also affected, some seeing cars and vehicles swept away.

Speaking today Taoiseach Varadkar said: "What really occurs to me is that no one was killed or seriously injured. I think we were blessed that no one was injured or killed.

General view of Irish Defence Forces removing flood and sewage-damaged toy car from home in Pairc An Grianan estate, Burnfoot, Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of Irish Defence Forces removing flood and sewage-damaged toy car from home in Pairc An Grianan estate, Burnfoot, Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn

"The key thing now is the clean-up which is well underway. The army have now being posted and are helping out with that. The Department of Social Protection is also providing cash grants for people who need it."

Asked if he can assure people that everything that has to be done will be done, Mr Varadkar responded: "Absolutely, I’m satisfied with the response so far, but that needs to be sustained and escalated in the coming days."

He said 50 or 60 people have availed of support from the Department of social protection who provided cash grants to buy essentials. "Then down the line, once houses are habitable again they’ll be able to apply for funding for repairs, for car insurance and so on."

There was confusion in Donegal this morning as locals waited for the 35 soldiers sent to help after flash flooding hit on Tuesday night.

Flood-hit communities in the north-west were expecting the platoon to be deployed at 9am to help with the flood relief.

However, some affected housing estates didn’t see the army arrive until after 1pm.

Mr Varadkar said: "I can’t say exactly why that was, but I’m not sure how relevant it is whether the defences forces arrived at 9 or 1. The important thing is that they did arrive and were tasked to be here and they are here. Additional, support will be provided from more army personnel if needed.

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