Early alert system urged as cost of flood havoc counted

Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 01:00

LOCAL POLITICIANS and businesspeople in Cork have called for the introduction of an early warning text alert system to give people a chance to protect their properties and limit the amount of damage in the event of a repeat of Thursday’s flooding.

Business and homeowners in Douglas, Blackpool and Ballyvolane in the city, Glanmire on the outskirts and Clonakilty in west Cork were yesterday counting the cost of the deluge which saw 50mm of rain fall in the space of three hours on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, agencies stand to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation after torrential downpours caused flood damage to homes and businesses, mostly in Belfast and Lisburn.

The North’s finance minister has approved emergency grants of up to £1,000 for the worst hit, including people who may be out of their houses for months.

Insurance assessors were yesterday visiting the worst affected – more than 150 properties, according to NI Water – to examine the extent of the damage and whether the floodwater has been contaminated by sewage.

Residents in Dunmurry, Belfast have been evacuated while their homes are cleaned of sewage.

As the clean-up continued in Cork, publican Donal O’Sullivan, of O’Sullivan’s in Douglas on Cork’s south side, said he had never witnessed such flooding in the village. His basement was flooded to about 300mm.

“The amount of rain that fell was phenomenal and the water just moved so fast down the streets, I’m not sure what could have been done, but a text alert system gives you a chance and if there was some local depot where you could get sandbags, it would help limit the damage.”

In Blackpool on Cork’s north side, barber Michael Moriarty recalled how when a new culvert was put on the Kiln river near Blackpool Church following bad floods 10 years ago, the hope was that it would never again get blocked and the area would be spared repeat floods.

“I don’t think there was any culvert that could have taken the amount of rain that fell on Thursday morning – it was ferocious,” said Mr Moriarty, whose business on Great William O’Brien Street was also flooded to about 300mm.

Mr Moriarty, who was loud in his praise of Cork City Council workers for their efforts in cleaning up Blackpool, gave the example the case of one businessman who had a flood door but never thought to put it up as he never expected such heavy rain and flooding in June.

Lord Mayor of Cork John Buttimer paid tribute to council staff for their work and to local communities for rallying round. He pledged to raise the issue of introducing an early warning text service with council officials.

“A communication strategy incorporating text messaging and the use of social media could successfully deliver critical information to those affected in a timely manner and I will request that the council considers developing such a system,” he said.

Cork Chamber president John Mullins called on Cork City Council, Cork County Council and the ESB to move quickly to complete the Cork flood risk assessment management study, which will form the blueprint for dealing with flooding in the area.

“There have been several serious flooding events in the Cork region in recent years, none of which have been satisfactorily addressed,” he said.

“Given the significant increase in localised flooding events, it is essential that the causes are investigated without delay.”

Meanwhile Fine Gael Cork North Central Senator Colm Burke called on insurance companies to make an initial payment of €3,000 to their policy-holders whose homes and businesses have been affected by the flooding.

Mr Burke said €3,000 was a conservative estimate for the minimum amount of damage caused to individual properties in areas such as Douglas, Glanmire, Blackpool, Ballyvolane and Clonakilty, and could be paid immediately by insurers.