Thursday 22 March 2018

They man the pumps, mop the water and pray for some sort of respite

Declan O’Connell of Lee Travel in his Midleton shop as the clean up continues after the flooding this week. Photo: Provision
Declan O’Connell of Lee Travel in his Midleton shop as the clean up continues after the flooding this week. Photo: Provision
The main street of Midleton in east Cork under waters from a flash flood

Graham Clifford

On the cover of glossy holiday brochures behind the counter of Lee Travel, sun-kissed beaches and palm tree-lined isles never looked so appealing.

But on Midleton's Main Street, Declan O'Connell is busy trying to dry out his travel agents after flood waters measuring a foot-and-a-half rushed through the door earlier this week.

Like so many business and home owners in the east Cork town, and elsewhere across the country, he was caught unawares.

"We really didn't expect to be hit so hard I suppose. Our shop here was one of the first to be flooded in Midleton and the last to dry out when the waters receded. But look, it was a natural combination of the strong easterly winds, heavy rain, high tides and full moon - we got all those together and my hope is that we'll be spared over the next few weeks," he said.

With almost half the travel agent's annual income being generated in the first six weeks of the year, Declan is determined to get the store up and running in the coming days.

As relentless sheets of rain swept into the town yesterday, most dwellers in the town centre had battened down the hatches - sandbags stacked outside their front doors. Those who could leave, did so.

On Broderick Street, the Liang family continued their own personal clean-up operation. Their terraced home had been destroyed when water levels reached the third step of the stairwell as they slept in the early hours of Wednesday morning. While their electricity has been reconnected, the structural impact is immense with a gaping hole in a sitting room wall.

The Liang children, Rachel (9) and Ryan (4), dance to avoid the constant thrust of the mop as the family attempt to dry their home inside.

"The water got everywhere. Everything is damp and destroyed," said their mother - who has worked tirelessly, day and night, since Storm Frank hit Midleton, to salvage their home.

As in Bandon, Glanmire, Enniscorthy, Arklow, Graiguenamanagh, Athlone and so many other submerged towns, villages and parishes, they are suffering from exhaustion this weekend as the rain continues to fall.

"I've barely slept since Tuesday night," said one elderly resident of the Woodlands estate, which was evacuated at the height of the storm. "I keep thinking the waters will come back and I've worked too hard on my home over the years to let more destruction come under the door."

Many criticised local authorities for not doing more to assist.

"When a river was flowing through the town, who pumped it out? Not the fire service or the council, but local farmers with their tractors and pumps. What would we have done without them? If we'd been depending on the emergency services we might still be under water I'm afraid," said one evacuated homeowner.

In towns such as Bandon, locals are moving from the clean-up operation to the future flood prevention stage as Met Éireann warns of three more weeks of disrupted weather. Rain battered the southern half of the country for most of New Year's Day as talk of a more modest Storm Gertrude entered the weather vernacular.

All across the country many people who've seen their homes destroyed have criticised the Government for moving too slowly on the flood crisis.

Billy Reidy in Midleton said: "So the Taoiseach will have the big flood meeting. It's a bit late for that, don't you think, when half the country is already under water?"

Last night authorities were monitoring rising levels on rivers such as the Blackwater in Cork, the Suir, the Barrow, the Nore and the Slaney.

Water levels continue to increase along the Shannon, especially in Athlone, Banagher and Limerick.

The sun-kissed beaches of summertime seem an awful long way off.

Irish Independent

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