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Sunday 17 February 2019

Worst flooding in decades after rivers break banks

Ralph Riegel

The worst flooding in two decades left parts of the country facing an estimated €10m clean-up bill after three major rivers broke their banks following torrential rainfall.

It was the worst flooding in the country after a bout of gales and rain that lasted for over 48 hours.

The Blackwater, Lee and Funcheon rivers all broke their banks -- causing chaos in both Mallow and Fermoy.

Businesses on Bridge Street in Mallow were under almost 1.2 metres of muddy water yesterday as the Blackwater surged past flood protection measures.

Parts of the town were cut-off and major route restrictions were imposed on the Cork-Limerick, Mallow-Fermoy and Mallow-Mitchelstown roads. Tributaries of the Blackwater also broke their banks.

At one point, a three-mile tailback was caused as flood waters cut off a major access road by the former Mallow sugar factory.

Cork County Council officials had desperately worked throughout the night to help residents and businesses prepare for the flooding. Sandbags were issued and erected by the most vulnerable premises.

Measurements upriver at Millstreet had revealed that the torrential rainfall over recent days would result in the worst flooding in almost two decades.

However, the scale of the floods still shocked locals -- as parts of Mallow including Bridge Street, the Spa and Town Park were totally cut-off.

Dozens of homes were flooded, with carpets, furnishings and electrical appliances left ruined.

At one point, flood waters in the Town Park reached 1.2 metres. The flooding reached such a scale that the Health Service Executive (HSE) were forced to implement special measures to ensure Mallow General Hospital and other health centres were protected.

These measures included providing five ambulances, including two special 4x4 ambulances, as well as support vehicles from the Red Cross, Civil Defence and Defence Forces.

The Southern Brigade assured the HSE that a special high-axle truck -- capable of fording deep water -- would be available if necessary.

The Air Corps also placed a special air ambulance on standby to support HSE operations in flood-hit areas of Cork and Kerry.

Sandbags

In Fermoy, 30km downstream of Mallow, residents had several hours' warning to place sandbags by threatened homes and premises.

The flooding began shortly before 11am and numerous business premises on Brian Boru Square, Ashe Quay and Park Road had to be closed and evacuated as the river swept over its bank.

"We did everything we could -- we were told it was going to flood but we couldn't believe how fast the water came up," one worker said.

Concern was mounting last night that many of the residents hit by the flooding may not have adequate flood insurance cover given previous damage caused by the River Blackwater.

Officials were also carefully monitoring flood levels by the town's water treatment works.

Ironically, many Fermoy residents had opposed controversial flood protection plans by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which included special flood-proof screens which would be erected on the river walls.

Some residents are worried that the plan -- which is not scheduled to be implemented for some time -- could ruin the town's famous river frontage and hit local tourism earnings.

Cork City was also hit by flooding as low-lying parts of the city centre were underwater as the River Lee also surged over its banks.

Opposition TDs demanded an immediate Government statement on the status of local flood relief plans in the wake of flooding which cut off entire parts of Fermoy, Mallow and Castletownroche in Co Cork.

Mallow TD Sean Sherlock (Lab) claimed that despite repeated Government promises, the North Cork town has yet to see its €30m flood plan completed -- while work hasn't even started on the Fermoy element of the project.

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