Calls for Waterways Ireland to compensate Limerick flood victims and address local council meeting


imageKathryn Hayes

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WATERWAYS Ireland must compensate Limerick residents for flooding caused in the Corbally area of the city a local Councillor has claimed.

Devastated homeowners in Richmond Park are demanding answers after flooding, which they say was avoidable, wreaked havoc in the area.

Some 14 houses were flooded and five cars parked on College Park Road in Corbally were submerged in water after the canal burst its banks on Saturday night.

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The local girls’ secondary school, Ard Scoil Mhuire, narrowly escaped major water damage after flood waters lapped the doors of the school but failed to rise any further.

Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan claims that Waterways Ireland’s failure to monitor the Canal Bank caused the serious flood in Corbally on Saturday.

“This was not an “act of god” or “freak of nature”. Rather it was something which could have been easily avoided. I am in no doubt it was primarily caused by the ineptitude of Waterways Ireland.”

Cllr. Quinlivan added: “Local residents are rightly incensed with what they see as serious neglect and ineptitude of those supposedly in charge of the Canal. They firmly believe that their concerns were ignored. If these concerns were taken into consideration and appropriate action taken then people would not be standing in their flooded homes today.”

Cllr Quinlivan said he will be calling for Waterways Ireland to address the next meeting of the Limerick Metropolitan District to explain exactly what happened and “to compensate the Corbally residents as a matter of urgency”.

Limerick City and County Council issued a statement on Sunday regarding the local flooding.

It said efforts to release water on the canal were “successful” after “resolving some technical difficulties” with the Park Locke gates.

Eanna Rowe, regional manager with Waterways Ireland, said the level of the Mulcair River rose by 2.5 meters in four hours on Saturday to record levels and the force of this water meant it was not possible to open the lock gates by hand.

“It really is unfortunate but there is nothing anyone could have done.” Mr Rowe said water had been released from the canal during the preceding days and, in anticipation of a in anticipation of flooding over the weekend, keys for the lock gates had been given to the council.

He said Waterways Ireland got a call late on Saturday when the council was unable to open the gates.

“The force of the water was such that you could not open the gates without mechanical intervention.”

The Corbally road – one of the main arteries into Limerick – remained closed for most of Sunday as workers continued to pump water from the nearby submerged College Park Road into the river Shannon.

The area is prone to flooding, but the waters normally come from the direction of the Shannon river rather than the canal.

Alarm bells about the rising canal levels had been sounded in the area since last Wednesday, and on Thursday the canal gates at nearby Lock Quay were partially opened to relieve rising water levels.

However these gates were closed again when the water levels dropped.

Angry locals are now questioning why it took so long to reopen the gates on Saturday, when record amounts of water were released from Parteen Weir by the ESB and the Mulcair river overflowed.

Great grand parents Anthony and Vera O’Donnell were among the home-onwers in Richmond Park, Corbally, counting the cost of the flooding, which claimed the life of one of their dogs.

Cradling her beloved Chihuahua dog ‘Princess’ who drowned in the water which flooded her sitting room 65 year old Vera said:

“She was my princess and I loved her. No matter where I go when I come in the car she would bark and she would know I was coming,”

“I put the dogs on the couch because I thought they would be safe, I have a grandson and he just adores her….I just felt it was my fault putting them in there I just felt they would be safe in there,” she cried.

Mrs O’Donnell’s 66-year-old husband Anthony fought back tears as he watched neighbours help pump the water out of his house.

He said the couple never expected the water to come to come up into their sitting room.

“We never expected the water to come up that high, One of dogs jumped of the couch and drowned, It could have been the same thing if it was child if just cam in so fast.”

Some 420 girls attend the local secondary school, Ard Scoil Mhuire, which principal Brid Herbert hopes will be open again by Tuesday at the latest after narrowly escaping serious flood damage.

“When I came here the whole front of the school was completely covered in water, it was up to people’s waists, but it actually didn’t get into the school, which is an absolute miracle.

“It got to the last step and it didn’t get into the doors so thank God the school is not affected. They were pumping water out of the front of the school through Saturday night and the school will be open by Tuesday at the very latest.”

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, who lives in Corbally, visited the area on Sunday morning and said questions need to be answered about how the canal gates system was managed.

“There does seem to have been confusion between Waterways Ireland’s role and the council’s role and the canal gates were not opened when the water poured down the Mulcair when it became swollen.

“We do have to find out what exactly happened, but there’s no doubt there are questions and some very serious questions and some some devastating results for the people in Richmond Park area.”

Munster rugby fans who left their cars parked at Ard Scoil Mhuire ahead of the Munster match in Thomond Park on Saturday returned to find their vehicles almost fully underwater.

An increase in the flow of water from the Parteen Weir, which controls the Shannon’s level through Limerick, has heightened the risk of flooding.

The ESB said the flow increase was required to cope with the volume of water accumulating upstream in Lough Derg.

An ESB spokesman said: “This level of water flow is likely to lead to increased flooding of roads, land and property in the vicinity of the Shannon, downstream of Parteen Weir, including the areas of Springfield, Montpelier, Castleconnell, Mountshannon (Annacotty) and the University of Limerick.”

The Limerick City and County Council statement said about 14 houses at Richmond Park, Corbally, were flooded on Saturday night as a result of the Park Canal overtopping its banks.

“Limerick City and County Council and Waterways Ireland responded to the problem on the canal and were successful in releasing the water on the canal after resolving some technical difficulties with the Park Locke gates.

The council said an ESB sub-station had shut down and around 100 houses in the area were without electricity for some time.

The Corbally area suffered from severe flooding in 2009 and again in 2014.

Meanwhile a number of roads in the Castleconnell area of Co Limerick are closed including R525 Castleconnell to O’Briensbridge road, due to flooding at the railway bridge 1km north of Castleconnell.

LP1106 Castleconnell village at the car park/ playground is closed between the entrance to Coolbawn Meadows Estate and Castle Hill.

LT11031 Charcos Pub to Castleconnell Boat Club is also closed.

Drivers are advised to drive with due caution as there may be flooding on other local roads.

Council staff, assisted by members of the Defence Forces, Fire Service and Civil Defence, are continuing to implement flood defence measures along the river bank and coordinate with local property owners at Montpelier, Castleconnell and the Mountshannon Road (Lisnagry), and in a number of other locations including the Corbally area.