Sunday 15 September 2019

Lives upended by shock and sudden devastation when a home is flooded

SWAMPED: Pauline Delaney and her mum Ann, above, cleaning their submerged kitchen during the flooding in Mountmellick, Co Laois Photos: Tony Gavin
SWAMPED: Pauline Delaney and her mum Ann, above, cleaning their submerged kitchen during the flooding in Mountmellick, Co Laois Photos: Tony Gavin

Alan O'Keeffe

People often don't pay much attention to weather forecasts so a sudden flood can come as a major shock.

We complacently glaze over when the news programme is followed by the weather and the ads.

But a growing number of people in Ireland had their lives suddenly torn apart when flood waters invaded their homes.

Several families in Mountmellick watched the weather forecasts last Tuesday night and, like most people, did not give a second thought to the usual mention of expected rainfall.

What happened the next day turned the lives of 50 families upside down.

A "deluge of biblical proportions" swelled rivers that rushed from the Slieve Bloom Mountains to barge into homes and businesses.

Ann Delaney pictured at her home Picture: Collins Photos
Ann Delaney pictured at her home Picture: Collins Photos

Families were forced out of their homes. Communities retreated from the rampaging waters.

Such scenes have happened in all four provinces in recent years - Donegal, Galway, Athlone, Cork, and now Mountmellick.

After the shock and frantic rush came the misery. A cosy home or a humming business ruined by surging waters, often contaminated by sewage.

Furniture, electrical appliances and carpets were dumped in heaps in front gardens during the clean-up - a damp and contaminated teddy bear discarded as a precaution. The entrails of private domestic ecosystems strewn along the ground.

The projected cost of building new flood defences in almost all counties is estimated at €835m - almost twice the €430m budgeted for between 2016 and 2021.

No matter how many defences are built, there will continue to be more personal nightmares of homes destroyed.

While entire communities can be devastated, the pain is always personal.

Everyone's home is one's castle. A breach of the boundaries that enclose our most personal spaces can be devastating.

The people whose homes were destroyed in Mountmellick had no inkling what was destined to happen.

Like so many families who shared similar fates in other parts of the nation in recent years, they felt bereft.

Ann Delaney and her adult daughter Pauline used brushes to push the water out of their front door into Patrick Street as more flowed in through their back door. Ann worried there could be sewage in the water.

Ann's sister Catherine helped. She said Ann had been through a very challenging year and she was worried the flood could be "the last straw".

All around the town, as in other flood-hit communities, shocked individuals grappled with the damage to their homes and businesses.

A neighbour, Ger Phillips, wondered what had become of his one-man bakery business. His shop was swamped. His waterlogged bakery lay beyond the swirling currents in his yard.

Elsewhere, Declan Furlong surveyed the damage to his Hare's Corner restaurant. He did not know when his 14 staff would be able to resume serving diners.

Their hopes to celebrate their first year in business were washed away by the flood.

Sunday Independent

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