Fears grow River Shannon could burst its banks

National Emergency Co-ordination Group meets over flooding response

Undated handout photograph  issued by the Defence Forces  of flooding along the River Shannon near   Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Defence Forces Ireland/PA Wire

Undated handout photograph issued by the Defence Forces of flooding along the River Shannon near Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Defence Forces Ireland/PA Wire

Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 21:20

The focus of flooding concern has turned to the country’s major rivers, especially those on the south, south-west and west, not least the Shannon.

The National Emergency Co-ordination Group, which met today, will tomorrow brief the Government, through Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, on how the various Government department and State agencies are coping and co-operating with what the exceptional rain and tidal surges have been throwing at communities.

The chairman of the group, Seán Hogan of the Department of the Environment, said today that local authorities in affected areas believed that worst of the tidal flooding was past - for the moment.

However, there was growing concern at river levels, and fears that waters will rise even higher than at present as a result of rain now and in the coming week.

“The threat from tidal flooding seems to be receding for the moment we are concerned about the further threats that exist. An enhanced level of threat exists in rivers,” said Mr Hogan.

He was speaking at the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre in Agriculture House in Dublin midway through an information sharing meeting to give key flood response players a chance to learn from each other and also identify areas of need.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Taoiseach’s office, the departments of social protection, tourism and sport, health, and enterprise, the Health and Safety Authority and the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, Civil Defence, the Coast Guard, local authorities, the Revenue Commissioners and the departments of finance, and public expenditure and reform.

Mr Hogan said the current situation did not constitute a national emergency and he commended the efforts of agencies at local level, and the degree of co-operating between people, in trying to cope with flooding.

“We have been reviewing what has been going on in response to the emergency. That’s been managed locally and we think reasonably well,” he told reporters.

“I would always advise people to keep an eye on what’s happening locally in their own environment. Keep your eyes open on the river, on what’s going on. While we might be able to predict generally that there’s issues and troubles, the rainfall as we’ve seen, you can get rain happening in areas which will cause local flooding which won’t be picked up by any warning system and so people do need to keep an eye on their own particular immediate area,” he said.

“Listen and if there are any warnings being issued by the local authorities, keep an eye on your own local environment.”

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