Behind the News: Brian Keogh, flood victim
Brian Keogh lives in one of five homes cut off by floodwater in Co Clare since early last month
Up to his neck: Brian Keogh by his house, in Ballycar; the flooded sections of the road are up to 350m long. Photographs: Liam Burke/Press 22
Up to his neck: Brian Keogh in the floodwater by his house, in Ballycar; the flooded sections are up to 350m long. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22
Every weekday morning for the past six weeks Brian Keogh has had to trek across three neighbours’ driveways, across two fields, over a wall and through a hedge to get to his car from his home, near Newmarket-on-Fergus, in Co Clare.
The nearest road to their house has been under water since the floods of last month; the Keoghs’ home and those of four neighbours in the townland of Ballycar have been left standing on what now looks like an island in the floodwater.
“I have twin boys, aged 23 months, and our house is the farthest away from the [nearest usable] road. My partner and I have to carry them to the car every morning so we can bring them to their creche and go to work ourselves,” he says.
They follow a similar pattern in the evenings, taking about 10 minutes to carry the twins from their parked cars to their home. When the family have been shopping Keogh puts the bags in a boat and rows along the submerged road to his jeep and trailer. Then he pulls the boat on to the trailer, drives home and unloads the shopping. “It would take me an hour to get the shopping in if I didn’t have the boat.”
The residents of Ballycar are marooned by two stretches of road that are under up to two and a half metres of water. Keogh tested the depth in his scuba-diving gear. “I went into the water up to my neck and there was still a load of water,” he says.
One of the submerged lengths is about 150m long. The other stretches as far as 350m. “Because the flooded area is so long, you couldn’t put up a barrier. The flooding is due to a couple of lakes which connect underground. The only solution would be to raise the road, but Irish Rail already tried that on the nearby Limerick-Ennis rail line, which is also closed at the moment due to flooding.”
One of the five marooned houses has flooded, forcing the family who live there to move out. The other four families are trying to make do until the floodwater recedes.
“I think the waters were still rising until about a week ago, and now it’s starting to go down. It might take two to three weeks to go down if it doesn’t rain again.
“We had an engineer here from Clare County Council who said there is nothing that can be done until the water levels go down.”
That said, Shannon fire service visited the area and left equipment in case it had to return to fight a fire at one of the houses. Likewise, the garden of one home has been designated as a landing site for the Irish Coast Guard helicopter if anyone requires urgent hospital treatment.
“The Civil Defence has offered to bring in supplies if we give them notice, and the county council said they’d pay the rent if we found suitable alternative accommodation, but nobody wants to leave their home unless they really have to,” says Keogh.