Army called in as Limerick faces ‘unprecedented’ floods

Scores of people evacuated from inundated homes across city


The Army has been drafted into a Limerick to help battle “unprecedented” floods in the city.

Scores of people have been evacuated from their homes across Limerick City after “unprecedented” floods hit this morning.

Large parts of the city and county are under water after the River Shannon burst its banks in several areas.

The worst affected locations include Kings Island (St Mary’s Park/Island Road and the Lee Estate), Athlunkard Street, Dock Road, Condell Road, Corbally Road, Honan’s Quay, Clancy Strand, and Longpavement.

Another area badly hit by the floods, Athlunkard Street, saw houses and cars submerged.

Ger Hogan has meanwhile become a hero in his native city. Since early this morning the father of seven has been rescuing stranded victims of the floods from their washed out homes to safety - all on board a cart driven by his mare Peg.

From 9am, Ger and Peg began carting neighbours and family and friends in St Mary’s Park to dry ground.

The north side estate is under four feet of water. By 2.30pm Ger and three-year old Peg had rescued around 100 people.

“The tide was terribly big. I’ve never seen it that big. People living here in St Mary’s Park have never seen anything like this,” explained Ger.

“The water is up past Peg’s belly. It is scary. I’m doing my best. It’s all I can do. I can’t do any more,” Ger added.

We’ve been going in and out of homes collecting people and bringing them into town, or to dryer ground so they can walk into town. I must have ferried 100 people or more already,” he said.

“I’m going since 9am. Peg got tired so I have replaced her with another horse. Then I’m going to give him a break and get a third horse.”

Ger, 57, said he has kept horses all his life and was glad to help out.

“I’ve horses since I was a child. They’re all kept well fed and they are kept in stables -- not left out in the weather.”

He added: “I’m just getting a mouthful of tea now and then I’ll go out again in a few minutes.”

Meanwhile, mother of one Edel Hogan, who lives on the street - a few feet from a stretch of the River Shannon - said her home was under a few feet of water.

“I feel terrible. I’m disgusted. We got no sandbags from the council. Myself and my partner and my daughter have no place to sleep tonight,” she said.

The two-bedroom house is located below the river’s level and had no chance when the waters burst the banks.

“Everything is destroyed. I left my home as the water was at the fourth step on my stairs. It came in my sitting room door early this morning.”

Ms Hogan said her daughter Alana (6) suffers from asthma and that their home - which she only moved into last August - would have to be gutted.

Ann Pickford (68), was in bed downstairs at her home, also on Athlunkard Street, when more than eight feet of water swamped her home at around 7am.

“I’m just so shocked. I heard the water. I got up out of bed. Within a few seconds it was up to my bed. My couch was floating in the sitting room,” she said wiping tears away.

“Everything is gone. Our houses are gone,” she added.

Her late husband William died after a heart attack 14 years ago just after the last big flood hit their home on Christmas Day.

“It was bad 14 years ago, but this was worse. The water came over the eight foot walls at the back if the house this morning. I couldn’t see the top of the wall.”

Ms Pickford had to be rescued by boat. “I opened the front door and it just flowed out as quickly as it was coming in the back. I’m here 46 years and I never saw anything like this.”

She wept as she revealed her wedding album had been destroyed in the deluge.

“We were given absolutely nothing, no help.”

Her daughter Audrey added: “The residents were given no help. There was no sandbags given out. Surely the council knew the high tides were coming?”

She added: “There were two little dogs out the back garden and we don’t know if they are still there.”

Madeline Whelan, a resident of St Mary’s Park said: “It came through my sitting room. Everywhere here is flooded. I had requested sandbags a few weeks ago but the council only put them up along the riverbank. They should have put the sandbags up along people’s houses.”

The Potato Market at Merchants’ Quay, and Sarsfield House, was also flooded, as was the Circuit Court building.

A number of cars were submerged and left destroyed by the deluge.

Emergency response crews attached to Limerick’s local authorities are continuing to battle the elements.

Extra sandbags, pumping equipment and boats to ferry evacuated residents from their flooded homes are being used.

Secretary of Limerick County Council Eugene Griffin said an overnight high tide and high winds had “exacerbated” the flooding.

Responding to residents’ concerns about sandbags in their areas, he said: “This wasn’t expected. We put in flood defences where we anticipated there would be problems and these defences were ‘exacerbated’.

“The plan for the next 24 hours is to try to deal with the floods. Most roads have reopened. The next high tide is at 6pm. However, we do not expect it to be as bad,” Mr Griffin added.

“This was an unprecedented high tide with high winds. It hasn’t been seen in Limerick in living memory,” he said.

The Corbally Road, N21 at Adare, and Dock Road have all reopened to traffic.

“We have people on site pumping out flood waters. We had to evacuate eight vulnerable and elderly people from their homes,” Mr Griffin said.

Dozens of other people have been rescued by their relatives and neighbours, on boats and trailers attached to 4x4 vehicles.

He added: “The Army has been mobilised to provide assistance, as have the Civil Defence, Red Cross and Limerick Marine Search and Rescue.

“We have set up an on site co-ordination centre in St Munchin’s Family Resource Centre, where we have brought the evacuees. It is been used to co-ordinate efforts between the council, gardaí, the HSE, fire service and all other involved agencies.”

There have been reports of horses and dogs drowning in the wave of floods that struck as people slept in their beds.

In Co Limerick, despite record high tides in the port town Foynes, new flood defences are withstanding the ongoing storm.

Motorists are advised to take extreme caution on roads and only to travel if completely necessary.

The N21 at Adare had been closed to traffic due to flooding after the River Maigue burst its banks.

Askeaton has also suffered severe flooding.

“The biggest problem we now have out in the county is falling trees,” Mr Griffin said.