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Sunday 17 December 2017

School principal worried by encroaching floodwaters: 'Children’s safety and sewerage are major concerns'

Photo: Declan Delaney
Photo: Declan Delaney
Photo: Declan Delaney

John Brennan

A principal of a primary school on the banks of the river Shannon has spoken of her safety concerns as floodwaters continue to rise.

Ms Anne Connaughton, principal of St Paul’s NS in Athlone town has told of the precautions the school is taking.

“[The water] hasn’t come into the school building, but parts of the grounds are flooded – children’s safety and sewerage is the major concern,” she said.

Irish Water and the HSE have provided the school with chemical toilets in case the water levels continue to rise, while the town council has also provided sandbags.

The pedestrian gate to the national school has been closed, as water levels are reported to be over ankle depth - and rising.

A traffic management plan is in place on Deerpark Road.

There have been reports cars have been abandoned as roads near the river Shannon begin to flood.

The areas most at risk in Athlone are Deerpark Road, Golden Island, Carrick-O-Brien, The Strand and Wolfe Tone Terrace – all in the floodplain of the Shannon.

Meanwhile, local representative Cllr Kevin Moran criticised the government’s response to widespread flooding across the country, saying the funds offered won’t even cover one of the affected areas.

He said the funds “wouldn’t do Ballinasloe at the present time with the amount of damage that’s been done down there.”

The Athlone councillor told of the fears that the flood waters would continue to rise in the aftermath of Storm Desmond.

“The people are suffering badly here - they’re worried, they’re very concerned.”

He added “everything is going against us at the moment – this morning the water was at two foot, now it’s at four foot.”

Mr Moran spoke of how stricken residents have been preparing for the worst by moving important items upstairs in their homes

Mr Timmy Donovan, proprietor of Sean’s Bar – Ireland’s oldest bar – saw the premises suffer severe flood damage in 2009.

“It will find its way in no matter what you do,” he said.

“The next day or two will tell a lot - it generally takes about three days for water to come off the land into Lough Ree and then it funnels into Athlone, it basically bottlenecks in Athlone,” he said.

Not even pumps and sandbags kept the water out six years ago, he said.

“We worked around the clock [in 2009], we’d walls of sandbags outside and inside and pumps – we kept the waters out for about two weeks, then it burst though a storm drain and flooded the whole bar.”

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