Clonakilty begins clean-up after 'disaster' in west Cork

 

IT SEEMED not a single premises in Clonakilty town centre escaped damage in the torrential flood that swept through the town at 3am yesterday.

The river Feale burst its banks at a bend in the river on Western Road, sending torrents of floodwater through the town “like a tsunami”, according to mayor Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin.

Residents were trapped in their homes while cars floated down Kent Street. Business owners working overnight to try and save stock and equipment were forced to evacuate premises as floodwater rose above 4ft in low-lying areas in 15 minutes.

Harry Delong woke as floodwater smashed through the wall across the road from his Kent Street home at 4am.

“The rain was incredible, the wall was washed away and when that went it was open season: cars were submerged up to the windows. It was incredible to see it happening,” he said.

Fire crews rescued a man swept from the doorstep of the Imperial Hotel into the Feale, while a man in his twenties was rushed to Cork University Hospital after he was electrocuted early yesterday.

“There was nothing we could do until the water receded. Every household and business from Western Road to Flaxbridge and all the adjoining streets were destroyed,” Clonakilty station officer Patrick Murphy said.

Sodden books floated in the town library adjoining the river. Beside it, a 40ft section of the river wall was missing, washed away.

“We had flood gates, sandbags, we had lifted everything that could be lifted, but when 3ft of water flooded in, we had to run out of the building in the end, the water burst over the flood gates,” said Robert Walsh, who owns a printing business on Rossa Street, one of the worst affected areas of the town.

“By that stage the whole town was under water. It’s a disaster,” he said.

Left with no insurance cover after losing €500,000 of equipment in a previous flood, he said it will be difficult for businesses already affected by recession to survive this disaster.

“It’s the result of bad planning over the years, flood plains built on and no contingency plan by the council,” he said.

On adjoining Connolly Street, St Vincent de Paul charity shop volunteer Lal O’Sullivan cleared the entire premises.

“We’ve lost the resources to help the people who need us. We are appealing to those unaffected to help replenish stocks,” she said.

Dena O’Donovan, of O’Donovan’s hotel on Pearse Street, worked to restore order for a full house of guests due to arrive last night. She said it was the first time Pearse Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, had been hit by flooding in living memory.

“I could see it happening but I didn’t expect it to come in the front door. I was watching it rise higher out the back,” she said.

“I’ve never witnessed the like of this in 22 years, it’s devastating,” said Anna Maybury, who runs an alterations and sewing shop on Pearse Street. “The insurance premiums will escalate now. It’s the last thing you expect at the height of the summer.”

By midday yesterday, the town’s community spirit had kicked in, with an emergency call sent out by the Clonakilty Favour Exchange for volunteers to help fire crews, Gardaí, council staff, the Red Cross and 25 members of the Civil Defence in the clean-up.

FUNDING

EMERGENCY FUNDING may be available to those affected by the flooding in recent days, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment said yesterday.

The spokesman said assistance would be available to homeowners as humanitarian assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

This makes exceptional-needs payments to help meet essential, once-off expenditure that cannot be met out of people’s weekly income.