Sunday 17 December 2017

'Election talk is maddening. We want action, not words' - daughter of elderly flood couple

Noel Jones (81) is escorted from his flooded home in the Portavolla housing estate, Banagher, Co Offaly. Photo: APX
Noel Jones (81) is escorted from his flooded home in the Portavolla housing estate, Banagher, Co Offaly. Photo: APX

Eoghan MacConnell

Extreme flooding saw classes called off at Gallen Community School in Ferbane - although it did not prevent exam year pupils from returning yesterday.

The partial reopening was possible thanks to the efforts of principal Ursula Finnegan and workers from the school's management company, Sodexo. In her 23 years in Ferbane, Ms Finnegan said she had never witnessed the River Brosna overflowing as it had this year.

Read more: Taoiseach to put minister in charge of floods action

In recent days three feet of water had entered the stairwells on the Co Offaly school's lower ground floor. The stairwells lead out onto a walkway along the riverbank and were designed to safely evacuate the upper floors.

However, Ms Finnegan explained that "on the first of January, the river burst its banks and flooded in the walkway." A short time later up to three feet of water entered the stairwells.

Sodexo manager Ciaran Butler said an emergency plan began on January 1.

Read more: The coalition's 12-point plan for floods

"We have basically been flat out pumping water," he said.

Mr Butler praised the local community who had helped out sourcing pumps, sandbags and providing assistance. "Everybody pulled together. The local community came in to help us," he added.

Once the flood water had receded, Ms Finnegan contacted a fire officer in Tullamore and organised a visit to the school. The fire officer permitted the opening of the school's ground floor - but the upper floor and autism unit remain closed.

Third and sixth-year pupils have returned to the school, but the remaining students will only be admitted on Monday if a visit from the inspector is successful.

Elsewhere in Co Offaly, Noel (81) and Lucy Jones (79) had returned to visit their house at the Portavolla estate in Banagher, which they have been forced to leave.

Read more: Teen claims he predicted floods using online data

"I would say it will be at least two weeks before we get back in," said Ms Jones.

Her husband believes the area could be protected easily if flood gates were put in place near the houses. "It's shocking, especially when you are not in the best of fettle," said Mr Jones.

Their daughter Deirdre Carroll was angry about the situation. "Election talk is literally all. It is maddening. It's action we want not words," she said.

Meanwhile at Cush in Pollagh, John Doolan (64) was assessing the damage to his home.

Mr Doolan, his wife Winifred and son Colin were forced to leave the flooded house last Friday.

As water from the River Brosna rose around his home, Mr Doolan had to use his tractor to travel the local road. However, as the situation worsened, the tractor was unable to cross the flood water and the family were marooned.

While he managed to stack furniture and remove some pets, their home has been badly damaged by the flood. "All the floors will have to go and there will be a lot of destruction," he said. "It will be next summer by the time everything dries out."

Irish Independent

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