Ireland's second city was today cut off as rising flood waters sparked an unprecedented emergency in Cork city.
An apocalyptic deluge has engulfed huge swathes of the south and west of the country and there will be more heavy rain tomorrow.
Heavy rains and rising rivers caused havoc as communities were evacuated and roads cut off. The worst hit regions were in Cork, Galway, Clare and Tipperary, where local areas resembled disaster zones today.
Horrific flooding forced the evacuation of a Cork city hotel, collapsed a quay wall and left underground car parks totally submerged.
Patients had to be moved to upper floors of one hospital in Cork as streets were swamped with fresh flooding.
Cork and Galway were today counting the cost of the worst flooding in living memory – with the clean-up and repair bill expected to extend to tens of millions of euro.
West Cork towns including Bandon, Bantry, Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Dunmanway were virtually cut-off yesterday evening by flood waters – with two rivers breaking their banks in Bandon alone.
The town’s primary shopping artery, South Main Street, was left under almost five feet of water at one point.
In Skibereen, 20 people had to be evacuated from the COPE Foundation premises after it was cut-off by flood waters from the River Ilen.
Even Bandon’s Garda Station was hit with the station eventually left under two feet of murky water. In Cork city, the combination of a high tide and the enforced release of water from the Inniscarra hydro-electric dam, upstream on the River Lee, left emergency services battling to cope with flood-related chaos in the western suburbs.
The River Lee broke its banks in several areas and low-lying parts of Cork city centre, Victoria Cross, the Western Road, Mardyke and Sharmann-Crawford Street were left under water. As a precaution, the Kingsley Hotel – which overlooks the River Lee – had to be evacuated .
However, the flood waters were so bad that emergency service vehicles eventually became stranded in the fastflowing torrent – and themselves had to be pulled to safety by heavy tractors.
Patients in parts of the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) had to be relocated to upper floors as a precaution as part of a quay wall by the River Lee collapsed under the torrent.
Motorists also awoke today to face a pre-Christmas nightmare with dozens of vehicles swept away by the flood.
At least one underground Cork city centre car-park was totally submerged – with flood waters surging over vehicles.
More than 100 Defence Forces personnel were drafted in to support over-stretched emergency services personnel.
In West Cork, high-axle army vehicles were used to allow access to key medical facilities whose approach roads had been hit by heavy flooding.
In North Cork, new flood barriers in Mallow prevented disastrous flooding by the River Blackwater but Fermoy, some 20 miles downstream, was left virtually impassable as the river broke its banks around 2am.
Parts of the town were left cut-off by raging torrents of water. The floods also devastated transport networks. In Clare, the Limerick-Ennis railway line had to close for several hours yesterday following a slippage on the line.
Heavy flooding also hit Iarnrod Eireann’s Galway-Dublin and Sligo-Dublin rail lines and passengers had to disembark at Athenry and be bussed to Ballinasloe before continuing their journey by train. Delays of an hour are expected and the arrangements will continue until further notice.
On the Sligo-Dublin line, similar flooding occurred between Carrick-on-Shannon and Longford, with bussing arrangement in place and delays of up to 45 minutes expected.
DART and Northern- Maynooth Commuter Services are also experiencing delays of up to 10 minutes while the Wicklow to Gorey line remains closed due to the instability of an embankment caused by heavy rain.
The floods also forced Ballinasloe householders to be issued with a ‘boil water’ notice amid fears untreated water could enter the supply.
In Cork, a landslide closed the main Cork approach route to Bandon while a road in Monkstown was torn up by raging torrents of water for the third time in eight days.
In Clonmel, heavy flooding hit the town centre with the River Suir breaking its banks in several areas. In Galway, farmers in the southern part of the county warned they were now facing the worst floods since the disastrous deluge of 1995 when fodder had to be air-lifted in for starving animals.
Today, Councils began the mammoth task of cleaning up after the floods – and counting the cost of the damage.
The army has been called out around the country to assist the flood ravaged communities.
A total of 65 soldiers and 10 off-road trucks are operating in Bantry, Clonakilty, Ennis, Clonmel and Ballinasloe, to assist stemming the tide of the floods and to provide trucks with high ground clearance to allow movement.
Cork City Council has also been forced to shutdown the entire city centre drinking water system amid fears that a pumping station may be damaged and water supplies contaminated.
Cork Fire Brigade third officer Adrian Spillet said some of the worst flooding remains around Mercy University Hospital (MUH) where a wall collapsed into the river, for a time threatening the hospital.
Patients had to move to the first floor from the ground floor as a precaution.