SAINT MARY’S Park has often been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, but when faced with the worst flood damage in the city’s history, residents showed their true mettle.
As they watched their homes “turn into swimming pools” right before their eyes from 7.30am on Saturday morning, their neighbours literally dived in to the deluge to save them.
Standing at the corner of St Ita’s Street, Madeline Whelan, 54, Verdant Crescent, was overcome with emotion yesterday morning, as she looked down towards an impassable stretch of water, and towards Oliver Plunkett Street, where her relatives “lost everything they owned and worked all their lives for”.
“The water came up as far as my window, but in comparison to the rest of my family I’m very lucky. They’ve nothing left,” she said.
“There’s great credit due to the people who were rehoused through Regeneration - a lot of them came back to help us. It’s a great community, it always was. There are people down there that have been here since the houses were built, and now their homes are gone.”
Ten year-old Jason O’Brien, of Island View Terrace - where residents were submerged in several feet of water and saw their couches floating in their living rooms - admitted he was a little bit frightened at first but soon overcame his fears.
Armed with a breakfast roll and a can of Coke, he said: “I think it’s very bad because people have spent so much money doing up their houses, then the flood just took over and destroyed all their houses.”
Volunteer Ger Ryan, who has been living in St Mary’s all his life, said he never saw anything this like in his lifetime. “I’m just helping my neighbours..there are people being lifted out of the windows of their upstairs bedrooms down on St Munchin’s Street and leaving the area by boat,” he said.
Local resident Mike Coady, his son Eoin and their horse Peg became internet sensations after they rescued hundreds of people on his horse drawn cart. All day, they waded through the flood waters in St Ita’s Street to rescue people and deliver them to higher ground and into the arms of medical personnel, where some were wrapped in blankets and treated for shock. An image of the trio received over 110 tweets on the social networking site Twitter, and was also featured on BBC TV on Saturday night.
However, speaking to the Limerick Leader, Mike was self-effacing about the perceived heroics of the situation. “Sure, what are you gonna do? It’s just unbelievable.”
Noel Woodland, Oliver Plunkett Street, was also rescued by boat, along with his two dogs. “It’s awful. One of my bitches - my dog Lady - died out the back [garden] but I saved those two. The house is destroyed, everything. It’s horrible. I wasn’t too worried about the house - I was more worried about myself and the dogs. I’m going to stay with my sister for now; there’s nothing else I can do.”
Independent councillor and former Mayor John Gilligan was among those landlocked in Lee Estate, where he watched his car being washed out the driveway.
“The only way in and out is by boat. The situation is very, very grim,” he said on Saturday morning.
“It’s a disaster area and should be seen as that.”
Ann Pickford, 68, was in bed downstairs at her home on Athlunkard Street, when more than eight feet of water swamped her home at around 7am. “I’m just so shocked. I heard the water. I got up out of bed. Within a few seconds it was up to my bed. My couch was floating in the sitting room,” she said wiping tears away.
Limerick city and county manager, Conn Murray, said there was “an extraordinary explosion of community spirit” in the northside. While he said they always knew it existed, much like the floods, he had never seen this displayed in full force before either.