OPW admits 'temporary structure' failed and led to flooding in Limerick

THE OFFICE of Public Works (OPW) has admitted that efforts to prevent flooding with a "temporary structure" had failed, causing hundreds of thousands of euro worth of damage to homes and a state-of-the-art GAA pitch in Limerick. 

The weekend flooding forced four families to evacuate their homes in Coonagh, and rendered Na Piarsaigh GAA's pitch unplayable for several months. 

Families have told the Limerick Leader that they have been unable to return to their homes for health and safety reasons, with one cul-de-sac of five houses completely inaccessible. 

In a statement to the Leader, the OPW said that workers noticed a sluice outfall had collapsed during a routine inspection of an embankment in Coonagh. 

This sluice outfall discharges water from the area, protected by the embankment, to the estuary, and prevents tidal waters in the estuary baking up to the protected area during high tides. 

However, the OPW were not able to repair the sluice "due to the high tide" when they started works on Friday and Saturday, a spokesperson stated. 

"A temporary bund/embankment was put in place with the aim of preventing water entering the protected area. Unfortunately, this temporary measure failed and as such tidal waters entered the area on Friday night/Saturday morning. 

"The OPW were in contact with the local authority over the weekend that provided sandbags to the affected houses.  Several pumps have been deployed to the area. 

"On Sunday the OPW undertook further works and these withstood the high tide last night.  Further works on these temporary measures were completed this morning. This is only a temporary measure and the OPW is focused on repairing the breach, when the tides recede," the OPW said this Monday evening. 

It added: "The OPW acknowledges that in trying to repair the damage to the sluice, the temporary structures did not initially provide the level of protection provided by the embankments and did lead to flooding in the area. The OPW is meeting with the Local Authority today."

Minister of State, Kevin "Boxer" Moran inspected damaged homes, fields and Na Piarsaigh GAA grounds. He met with the Maxwell family on Coonagh Road and promised that an investigation will be launched into the cause of the flooding. 

A spokesperson for Limerick City and County Council said that works are still being carried out at the various sites. 

Fine Gael councillor Olivia O'Sullivan told the Leader that a council engineer confirmed to her that an emergency plan put in place to prevent further flooding "has been successful with no further flooding". 

"Hopefully more high tides this week will not threaten further damage to homes or land in the Coonagh, Caherdavin and Clonmacken areas. It has been a devastating weekend for Coonagh residents, some tragically losing their homes completely, and also for the many volunteers in Na Piarsaigh GAA Club that fundraised and worked so hard to create state of the art facilities in Caherdavin that cater for hundreds of local children and young people that will be inaccessible for the rest of the season at least. It will take a long time for Coonagh and Na Piarsaigh to recover from this, but particularly the residents who lost their homes, they have lost everything," she said this Monday morning. 

Cllr O'Sullivan was at the scenes of flooding with Sen Kieran O'Donnell on Saturday and Sunday, including the evening times. 

One resident thanked the senator and representatives for their assistance over the weekend. 

Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea told the Leader that after speaking with senior officials in the OPW, they are now looking at mechanisms to assist families with compensation. 

“What I am getting is that they are holding their hands up and they are accepting full responsibility."

He told officials that a lot of people don’t want to go through their insurance.

“It’s difficult enough to get flood insurance, without putting in a big claim, even if the thing is to be subsequently reimbursed. So I said, can you develop some mechanism whereby you can tell deal directly with the clients without having to go through the insurance."

He said that it has been mooted that the OPW will pay for legal fees in homeowners' and individuals' bids to be reimbursed for the significant damage caused. 

Deputy O'Dea said that water pumps will be present for the next couple of days, followed by the installation of humidifiers, after which the OPW will deploy assessors to calculate the damage. 

Drone footage by Long Range Media 

Preview photograph by Brendan Gleeson

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