Widow driven out by flood slams council's efforts
As the water lapped up above her ankles, Breda Caulfield looked sadly around her kitchen, which had been decorated with festive sprigs of holly, a reminder that Christmas is coming as fast as the rain.
The widow has been living in her home on Clonown Road in Athlone, Co Westmeath, for 50 years.
But last week the River Shannon, which usually lies almost half a mile away, invaded her bungalow, forcing her out and making the road inaccessible.
She is now living between her sister's home and with her daughter Rosemarie in Co Kerry. She hopes that her furniture, which has been placed on concrete blocks around her house, will be undamaged.
"Between one week and 10 days ago, the threat of it coming closer to the house started. It started to come into the house on Wednesday of last week.
"We contacted the council last Monday and we believe they were distributing sandbags from last weekend. They came with a few sandbags on Monday and they raised up our furniture.
"I left the house on Tuesday, one week ago, because access was too hard. I won't be able to go back until the water recedes," she said.
Breda and Rosemarie, who has been travelling up to care for her mother, believe they would have been able to limit the damage and fight the flood if they had been given more assistance by Westmeath County Council.
They said the floods that wreaked havoc in 2009 caught them by surprise, but they believe there was enough notice this time.
"A pump wasn't offered to us and we are very upset that she has been completely abandoned since last week. There's nothing that can be done now, it's too late. But we still want answers from the county council," said Rosemarie. "It came quicker the last time, this time there was a few days where we could have been saved."
Breda, who was unable to get house insurance, is adamant she could have limited the thousands of euro worth of damage if she had a pump.
A spokesperson for the council said they are "not in a position to comment at the moment" but that they were focusing on using resources to "protect as much as we can".