Devastating cost to families and homes in wake of floods

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Limerick Flood 009Andrew Carey

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OVER 2,000 homes, more than 300 people in an area covering 200 acres with flood water being pumped out at a rate of 1,300 gallons per minute.

Those were the figures attached to the devastation caused by the unprecedented flooding in parts of Limerick with the people, families and homes of St Mary’s Park some of the worst affected.

But numbers aside, the emotional, let alone the financial cost that this flooding has brought to people throughout the city and county is much more than than can be calculated.

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This week, the massive clean up operation began in earnest in the wake of the Trojan and heroic work of volunteers and the community alike.

Ministerial visits have taken place and expert opinions offered as part of cost evaluation process is well underway with relief set to come from Government to aid the stricken.

Flood waters and the subsequent damage caused from 1983 have been well surpassed as last weekend’s storm forced the evacuation of 60 people from their home as the army, the Civil Defence The Order of Malta, The Irish Red Cross and Limerick Marine Search and Rescue provided assistance to many hundreds more.

Emergency accommodation and medical treatment was required for three while three elderly people were taken to hospital however their injuries are not believed to be serious.

On Sunday last, Council officials told gathered reporters that many of the flood defences put in place in advance of the high tides “were simply unable to cope” such was the huge volume of water when the Shannon burst its banks on Saturday morning.

“It was extraordinary unprecedented flooding,” Limerick City and County Manager Conn Murray said.

According to Mr Murray even though a Major Emergency was not declared the mechanisms for a Major Emergency Framework were put in place to cope with the havoc caused by the weekend flooding.

While the cost is well expected to run into the millions, the process of the clean up and evaluation is ongoing but again in the cold hard face of adversity the “tremendous community spirit” shown by the people of Limerick has been to the forefront of this traumatic experience.

Mr Murray also insisted that the local authorities would continue to be on high alert throughout the week.

“I understand the great shock experienced by residents especially the elderly. Nobody in the city, not even the oldest resident of King’s Island, can ever recall such severe flooding. We had our preparations made and had been working to shore up defences for days in the  areas considered most at risk of flooding in the city and county but the volume of water was such that many of our defences were simply unable to cope”, Mr Murray added.

With the focus turning away from the raging flowing waters of the River Shannon and instead turning towards the communities most in need, the ESB however said that it would be monitoring levels in the river “very closely”.

HSE Area Manager Bernard Gloster said that there should be no issue with the drinking water but warned that all flood water must be treated as contaminated.

“Always assume flood water is contaminated… Destroy any food that has come into contact with flood water,” he advised.

Minister for State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government,  Jan O’Sullivan TD said that “We want to make sure at national level there is a full understanding of the appalling and dreadful catastrophe that has happened because of the water coming into peoples houses.”

With a special responsibility for housing and development, the Labour Minister, whose son lives in one of the affected areas said a lot of lives have been disrupted including many elderly people some of whom have “no spare resources whatsoever”.

“There is already a fund which will be called upon for problems which happened before Christmas in Cork and Clare but Minister Brendan Howlin has accepted that the fund will have to be increased in order to address the problems in Limerick as well, ” she said.

Regeneration plans for St Mary’s Park will have to be re-examined in the wake of the devastating floods, the Minister advised.

“There are major questions to be decided in regard to that [Regeneration] but the first priority is to ensure that the banks are as secure as they can be and that will be the purpose of the visit of Sean Hogan,” Minister O’Sullivan said.