Saturday 18 November 2017

Families count the cost but are braced for even worse to come

Fiona Greaney with her 11-month-old son Tommy at their home at Station Road in Ballinasloe
Fiona Greaney with her 11-month-old son Tommy at their home at Station Road in Ballinasloe
Anthony and Peter Madden from Peter Madden Fuels stand in flood water outside their premises in Ballinasloe yesterday
Nonie Burke from Station Road standing in her flooded back garden
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Families and businesses in Ballinasloe are counting the cost of the floods and bracing themselves for even worse to come.

On Station Road in the town, where hundreds of families were flooded out of their homes in 2009, the water had submerged the gardens and was barely being kept from homes by rows of sandbags.

Fiona Greaney anxiously watched the levels in her submerged garden.

She is unable to bathe her 11-month-old son Tommy or use the water to make his bottle or food.

"You just couldn't use this water on a baby, we can't bathe him. It's not healthy.

"We're getting water from the Red Cross and buying it. We can't use the water or flush the toilets, we're pumping out the sewage tanks and just hoping it doesn't get any worse.

"We should be getting ready for Tommy's first Christmas but I can't put up any decorations. We don't even know if we will be here.

"We were badly flooded in 2009 and we're just praying it won't be the same. We were out of our home for almost four months then," she said.

The young family have been unable to get insurance since 2009 when the damage to their home hit tens of thousand.

"It cost around €30,000 to fix all the damage. Since then, we can't get insurance.

"If it happens again I don't know what we'd do.

"We've moved all the furniture we can off the floor. Instead of putting up decorations, we're pulling up couches," she added.

While many families had an anxious wait, more than 100 households which were badly flooded in 2009 escaped this year, thanks to a new flood defence.

Locals praised the wall erected on parts of Station Road after the 2009 floods.

"The wall cost around €1.5m but compare that to the insurance claims in 2009 from those houses, which were around €12m. Without this wall, these homes would all be under water again," said local Fine Gael councillor Michael Finnerty.

"We need to extend this wall to cover more homes in the area. These are the sorts of initiatives that can make a difference," he added.

Alfie Walsh said his home had been flooded repeatedly before the wall was erected. This time, the rising water is being held back.

"It's so high now that there's no doubt all these homes would be flooded if not for the wall. We were very worried over the weekend but it's just great," he added.

In the town centre Peter Madden desperately waited to gain entry to his fuel business which has been cut off by flood waters.

With tenders on hand to pump water from the area around the clock, the businessman was still unable to access his stock quickly.

He estimated that his business was losing at least €1,000 a day since the floods arrived on Sunday morning.

"This is our busiest time of year, it's our harvest and we can barely get any stock out.

"The pump has been flat out since Saturday but it is just being overwhelmed," he said.

With more flood waters expected by tomorrow, Mr Madden said his business was down 99pc this week when it should be at its busiest.

"If it gets worse, we don't know when we'll get back in. I've lost all my office files and the computer is damaged but we're backed up. We can only get a small amount of stock out by tractor. If someone wants 60 bales we can only get them 10," he added.

Nonie Burke, who was put out of her home for a year in 2009, has sandbagged her home as the waters reached the back door.

"Our garden is completely covered and we can't use the water," she said. "We're just terrified it will be the same as 2009, everything was so badly damaged.

"I'm hoping the waters will keep going down but we don't know what to expect."

Irish Independent

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