Tuesday 24 April 2018

'Thank God I wasn't killed' - Catastrophic damage as homes destroyed after flash floods hit

  • Locals look on helplessly as river burst its banks
  • Response questioned as families left homeless and bridges are washed away
  • Businesses destroyed and farmland ruined
  • Cars and furniture spotted floating down river
A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a hole after a road collapsed in Iskaheen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a hole after a road collapsed in Iskaheen. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Damage to the main Derry to Moville road in Co Donegal caused by the force of a flooded river overnight, after heavy rain left a trail of destruction. Photo: Brian Hutton/PA
Flooding hit parts of Derry.
Flooding hit parts of Derry.
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford

Ian Begley

The remains of a destroyed boxing club stood testament to the catastrophic damage caused by the flash floods in Donegal - treadmills and exercise bikes littered across the fields.

People in the tight-knit town of Buncrana, Co Donegal, were doing whatever they could yesterday to repair and clear up the damage done to homes, businesses and local amenities. However, no matter what possessions they could salvage, the extent of the flood had left a bomb-like scar on the community.

Locals looked on helplessly as the Crana River burst its banks on Tuesday night, leaving many families homeless and out of work.

Tracy Kelly, of Elm Park in Buncrana, said the flood waters washed her away and she could have drowned as she tried to evacuate her house.

Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Devastation in Carndonagh and Inishowen Photo: Jimmy Stafford
Damage to the main Derry to Moville road in Co Donegal caused by the force of a flooded river overnight, after heavy rain left a trail of destruction. Photo: Brian Hutton/PA
Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran inspects a damaged home in Burnfoot. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Transport Minister Shane Ross talks to Kathleen Molly in her flood-hit home in Burnfoot. Photo: Caroline Quinn
23 Aug 2017; General view of flood-damaged football pitch at Cockhill Celtic grounds, with treadmill that was carried the length of the pitch from the adjacent Dunree Boxing Club. Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Aine Durkin outside her flood-damaged home in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
23 Aug 2017; General view of flood-damage boxing club. Dunree Boxing Club, Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Annette’s Hair Salon owner Annette Doherty (right) and friend Tina McDaid cleaning up after the floods. Photo: Caroline Quinn
General view of flood-damaged boxing club in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford
Floods in Carndonagh, Co Donegal. Photo Jimmy Stafford
Flooding hit parts of Derry.
Flooding hit parts of Derry.
Flooding hit parts of Derry.

"When the floods started to get worse and worse, I had to climb out my window because I couldn't open my front door.

"But the moment I stepped out, I was washed right across the estate onto the green. I was terrified and completely submerged.

"Thank God, one of my neighbours arrived in a van and saved me.

"He managed to disperse the water and pull me out. He saved my life and I'm so thankful," she said.

Gresham Road resident Aine Durkin said once the water entered her home there was no stopping it.

"I live right by the side of the river and it came right up to the house. Once it came through the door there was no stopping it. I just didn't know when it was going to stop and before I evacuated my house I grabbed my laptop with all my family pictures on it along with a mourning card of my sister. Thank God it stopped when it did. My neighbours have been so great helping myself and my husband clean up."

Aine Durkin outside her flood-damaged home in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Aine Durkin outside her flood-damaged home in Buncrana, Co. Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Dunree Boxing Club was completely destroyed by the force of the river when it entered the premises.

"The water just came through the wall and completely destroyed the back of the building," said club owner James Doherty. "The force of the water was like something I have never seen before. Thank God I wasn't killed because a portaloo shot right past me when I went on to the site."

The extent of the damage is so severe he cannot predict when the club will reopen.

The football pitch adjacent to the boxing club was also completely destroyed and covered in washed up debris.

Annette’s Hair Salon owner Annette Doherty (right) and friend Tina McDaid cleaning up after the floods. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Annette’s Hair Salon owner Annette Doherty (right) and friend Tina McDaid cleaning up after the floods. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Alan Fletcher, of Cockhill Celtic football club, said he was at a loss on where to go from here.

"It's such a sad day because the pitch was used constantly by up to four teams," he said. "I just don't know what's going to happen now.

"It was very scary and so much work has gone into the club."

Meanwhile, Annette Doherty's hair salon was one of the many damaged businesses forced to shut.

"We had to clear out everything this morning," she said. "It was really bad last night, the water reached knee height and all my electrics are destroyed. I'm renting this building so I'm not even sure if my insurance will cover the damage."

Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran inspects a damaged home in Burnfoot. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran inspects a damaged home in Burnfoot. Photo: Caroline Quinn

A sheep farmer told how his flock had a lucky escape after being caught out by rising floodwaters.

A neighbour told Eamonn Strain, of Burnfoot, Co Donegal, that his flock of Suffolk ewes was in danger of drowning as the waters rose swiftly. "I went out into the field and the Burnfoot river is normally only about five or six metres wide but it went out to about 20 metres. We had no warning," he said.

His 190 ewes had headed for a slip of high ground in the field and were stranded but safe. "I've never seen anything like it - there are five bridges around this area that are washed away completely," said Mr Strain.

Dunree Boxing Club owner James Doherty (centre) with managers Pauline and Fergal Doyle in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Dunree Boxing Club owner James Doherty (centre) with managers Pauline and Fergal Doyle in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn

A woman and her husband had a lucky escape after they reversed away from a bridge minutes before it collapsed. Mairéad Howie told how she warned other drivers not to pass over the bridge on the Muff to Iskaheen road in Inishowen, including a couple with a baby in the back seat. The bridge later collapsed underneath a tractor, with the driver managing to escape.

"There were cars floating down the river, football pitches destroyed. It is the craziest flooding I have ever seen," she said.

Minister Joe McHugh says 'scenes of utter devastation' from flooding which have badly affected families, businesses, voluntary and sporting organisations will require special emergency funding.

After meeting and speaking with families in Buncrana, Bridgend and Burnfoot, Minister McHugh said: “Family homes have been destroyed in the flood waters and the affects on homeowners is devastating.

“It is essential that an emergency aid package is put together so we can help families rebuild their lives and so that bridges and roads washed away in the floods are restored as soon as possible.

“We have heard incredible stories of neighbours saving neighbours at the height of the floods. It is a miracle no lives were lost during this weather event.

“It is clear now that six major bridges and roads need to be repaired so that, for example, people can travel from Moville to Muff. There are a number of other areas where people have been cut off and access needs to be restored as soon as possible.

“Donegal County Council staff have worked tirelessly to find emergency accommodation for those who need it and we need to look at how we protect homes in the future. I will be working with Cabinet colleagues to seek an emergency fund to deal with all these issues in the days ahead,” Minister McHugh said.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News