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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Report recommends Central Bank investigation into insurance for flood-risk homes

Threat facing communities in Storm Desmond aftermath alleviates

Michael and Patty Macken prepare to abandon their flooded home at Carrick O’Brien by tractor with the help of their son Paul. Photos: Frank Mc Grath
Michael and Patty Macken prepare to abandon their flooded home at Carrick O’Brien by tractor with the help of their son Paul. Photos: Frank Mc Grath

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

The Central Bank needs to carry out an investigation into how insurance companies decide homes are at risk of flooding, a new report recommended.

A committee of TDs and senators has found evidence that insurance firms are using flood prediction maps to avoid providing cover for properties at the remotest risk.

The Oireachtas committee on Environment found there are flaws in the geo-coding of areas for flood risk that prevent homeowners getting insurance.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said she knows of situation where houses on hills are refused cover because they are considered to be in a flood-risk area.

“Today there are people in the position that their homes were never flooded but they can’t get insurance. There is a big issue with the insurance company taking advantage of the flood mapping and actually avoiding even the remotest risk,” she said.

The committee’s 156-page report, entitled Flooding and Property Insurance in Ireland, says the issue needs a “systematic investigation” by the Central Bank to determine its extent and advise on appropriate measures.

Labour TD Michael McCarthy said: ““It’s not logical and neither is it fair or moral that people in areas that aren’t affected by flooding can’t get insurance.

“If the evidence proves that insurance companies aren’t stepping up to the plate then government will have to resort to measure that will put that right. “

However, he said that they committee did not see fit to endorse a levy on all home insurance to subsidise cover for those in high-risk areas.

The committee heard from organisations representing those who have been excluded from flood cover, or who are at risk of being excluded, that their homes are no longer mortgage-able and the value of their homes plummets.

The report also recommends that the Government give consideration to a ban on future building on flood plains and in low-lying coastal areas.

It urges sustained levels of State investment in flood defences and river maintenance in vulnerable areas.

With regards to the River Shannon it says water levels should be reduced “to the lowest level consistent with navigation purposes so that the river is able to take additional water at critical times”.

Another recommendation is for flood warning systems to be rolled out nationwide.

Meanwhile, the threat facing communities in the aftermath of Storm Desmond has alleviated after water levels on the river Shannon dropped again today.

While Met Éireann says heavy rain is forecast for a number of days to come, there are currently no plans to issue a weather warning.

But the authorities today warned that parts of the country remain in a “severe flood situation” as the clean-up operation continues.

The Office of Public Works said that water levels at Athlone have risen by one centimetre today and are set to peak.

Levels on the River Lee in Cork are also being monitored closely.

But in all other parts of the Shannon, including around flood-hit Limerick, water levels have fallen by up to three inches over the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Red Cross has said that has received applications from 37 businesses seeking emergency assistance from the Government’s €5m fund. There were 140 calls received by the charity yesterday.

Many of the applicants have also indicated their intentions to apply for assistance from a second phase of funding in the New Year. This will involve firms applying for up to a further €15,000.

Separately, the Defence Forces says its personnel are currently operating in Athlone, Clonlara and Castleconnell. 

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