Counting the human cost of flooding in Limerick

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

ICMSA President John Comer visiting the farm of Donal Hynes on his land in Lisnagry (Pic Sean Curtin Fusionshooters) and below, it has been an around-the-clock battle for Ger Enright to keep water out of his Mountshannon Road home  Picture: Michael Cowhey
LIMERICK City and County Council estimates the cost of defending property from flooding will be €500,000 - but the sum does not include repairing damaged infrastructure which has yet to be determined.

LIMERICK City and County Council estimates the cost of defending property from flooding will be €500,000 - but the sum does not include repairing damaged infrastructure which has yet to be determined.

The overall sum could run into millions of euro.

“Significant costs are being incurred by the council in protecting property with significant man hours put into building temporary flood defences and pumping water as well as dealing with the aftermath of flooded homes,” said a spokesperson.

“In December, the council estimated these costs at €328,839.92 and the department paid out this amount before Christmas. The council estimates that the overall cost will be in the order of €500,000 but this is only an estimate as the flooding is ongoing,” said a spokesperson.

The human cost is being felt by men like Ger Enright, Ballyvolane, Mountshannon Road, Lisnagry and Donal Hynes, Newgarden, Lisnagry. Mr Enright has been battling flood waters at his home since December 3 while 50 acres of Mr Hynes’ farm is under water.

This Wednesday - for the sixth day in a row - the ESB is spilling 470 cubic metres per second at Parteen Weir, a rate that was maintained into Thursday.

The council is expecting an increase in water levels on the lower river Shannon due to a status yellow weather warning issued by Met Eireann. Amounts of 15 to 25mm are expected from the heavy rainfall on Wednesday.

Clare County Council reported this Thursday that water levels on the Lower River Shannon at Springfield, Clonlara, had risen two inches following the overnight rainfall and are now approximately 4-5 inches below the November 2009 peak level, which was reached on Saturday night last.

Further increases are not however anticipated due to the decision to maintain the spill rate at 470 cumecs.

However, the combination of the high spill rate and rainfall will prolong the woe for Mr Enright in Lisnagry.

It could be weeks before the flood waters from the Mulcair and Shannon recede from around his home. It is surrounded by a moat of sandbags and two industrial pumps are running constantly. The water reached a high of three and half feet at his front gate and two and a half feet at the house. The only access is by tractor.

“It has been 24 hours a day, seven days a week since the start of December. The only reason I am keeping it out of my house is my family, relations, friends and neighbours. They are there around the clock. I have got numerous phone calls with people offering their help and support.

“They are all down there night and day stacking sandbags, filling the pumps with diesel and keeping the sandbags from falling down. My son’s friends came down to help too. I can’t talk highly enough about all of them. The army and the council have been very good too.

“Water did get into one part of the house because the sandbags fell down.

“The only reason we kept it out of the whole house was because there was so many people at the time we could build it up again. I can’t say enough about my family, relations, friends and neighbours.

“We have no sewerage, we have no heating - it is not easy but someone has to be there to be at the pumps 24/7. You can’t go away and leave the pumps alone. It was very high on Saturday. It has gone down three or four inches but they are giving more rain for Wednesday and if the ESB let out more water we are in trouble again. What can you do, we are withered from it now but the whole family have pulled together,” said Ger, who is married to Anne and they have three children Evan, Vicky, Jeffrey.

Meanwhile, Mr Hynes would find a boat more useful than a tractor on his land currently.

“During the last very severe flood in 2009 it was there for five weeks and the land was sterile for the year after. Quality of grass totally deteriorated. A flash flood that will only last two days or a week wouldn’t do any harm but when it is up for that length of time... Whether the land is perished or so cold or whatever it spoils it for the year after,” said Mr Hynes. And it looks like it will be underwater a lot longer than five weeks.