Questions after Foynes lake surge causes 'very substantial' damage to museum

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Foynes: Margaret O’Shaughnessy with the destroyed carpet at the Foynes Museum Picture: Michael Cowhey

Foynes: Margaret O’Shaughnessy with the destroyed carpet at the Foynes Museum Picture: Michael Cowhey

ENGINEERS from Limerick City and County Council are investigating the cause of an unusual flood in Foynes last Saturday, which caused “a very substantial” amount of damage to be caused.

Devastated management and staff at the village’s most beloved attraction are counting the cost of the flood, which happened when a reservoir overflowed onto the village.

The Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum suffered such extensive damage that repairs could cost anywhere up to a million euro. But the full extent — and cost — of the damage is not clear yet.

No artifacts were harmed, but the full-size replica flying boat suffered extensive damage.

“We pulled up carpets straight away to try and get the place dry. The contractors who worked on the museum are now coming back to see what we will have to do to restore it, and what the overall cost will be. There’s quite a lot of damage, we don’t have a figure yet,” said manager Margaret O’Shaughnessy.

“The plane got damaged. We didn’t think in the beginning that anything had gone in because we were concentrating on the building, but there was about 6 or 8 inches of water lodged inside the plane,” she added.

Bill Fallover, who built the full size replica Boeing 314 Clipper Flying Boat, was at the museum this Wednesday morning to assess the overall damage.

It took Bill and his team around 10 months to build the replica, which was transported to Foynes in sections by night.

Large cranes on site lifted the pieces in, and the model was assembled on the spot.

But now, the original creator will probably have to take much of the plane apart, in order to repair it after half a foot of water flooded in.

“We have no heating, water got into the lift, we have no electrics. We’ll never again get flood insurance, and if this were to happen again we’d be out of business,” said Margaret.

Currently, the museum is covered by flood insurance, due to the fact that it had never before been flooded.

Last Friday, the museum closed its doors for the winter season. Now, the race is on to recover it before it is due to reopen in March.

Foynes’ flood defences, erected by Limerick City and County Council, have been very successful in keeping the Shannon Estuary at bay, but the flooding at the weekend came from the opposite direction.

A reservoir, up a hill behind the town, is usually relieved via a culvert that passes underneath the road and into the Shannon.

The water was unable to pass through the culvert, causing the man-made lake to overflow.

The flood defences, erected by the Shannon’s edge, initially blocked the flood waters from escaping into the river.

Within a very short period of time, the blocked water rose and flooded the Flying Boat Museum.

A council spokesperson confirmed that council engineers are continuing to investigate the exact reason for the flooding with a view to implementing measures to prevent any reoccurrence in the future.

“A very heavy rainfall event throughout Saturday was followed by an extraordinary discharge of surface water from an existing lake, immediately to the rear of the Foynes Port buildings. Locals have confirmed that this discharge significantly exceeded anything witnessed in recent memory.

“The existing culvert, which is cleaned weekly, was unable to carry this flow and this resulted in water surging onto the Marine Cove.

“Some of this overflow did not reach the N69 as it diverted to the rear of the Foynes Port Building before continuing to flood a car park adjacent to the Port building.

“The rest of the overflow continued onto the N69 at which point the existing road gradient diverted the flow towards the village.

“The existing footpath kerb on the northern side of the N69 diverted the majority of the remaining flow towards the village with a limited amount of water crossing the footpath to be retained by the new wall.”

The spokesperson continued: “It is important to point out the flood wall did not play any significant part in the subsequent flooding in the village.

“Council employees diverted the floodwater across the N69 utilising sandbags to the nearby jetty.”