Couple sue councils over ‘mini tsunami’ flood damage to home

Pair claim flooding caused after workers released trapped water at Co Louth bridge

 Noel and Rosemary Rice, of Mill Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, leaving   today after the opening day of a High Court action for damages against Dundalk Town Council and Louth County Council. Photograph: Collins

Noel and Rosemary Rice, of Mill Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, leaving today after the opening day of a High Court action for damages against Dundalk Town Council and Louth County Council. Photograph: Collins

 

A couple who claim their home was flooded after being stuck by “a mini tsunami” have sued Louth County Council and Dundalk Town Council for damages.

Noel and Rosemary Rice’s property at Mill Road, Dundalk, was flooded after millions of gallons of water struck their property without warning on December 3rd, 2005.

They say tens of thousands of euro worth of damage was caused to both the interior and exterior of their home.

They claim the flooding was caused after local authority workers released water that had accumulated due to a blockage at the Ault Bridge, Castleblayney Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, which is located upstream from the Rices’ home.

The release of water caused the river to break its banks and flood their property.

In High Court proceedings against Louth Co Council and Dundalk Town Council, the couple say the local authorities were negligent and responsible for the damage on grounds including that they allowed the water to escape and failed to carry out a risk assessment. It is also claimed they allowed the water to escape from a location they ought to have known was dangerous, unsafe and carried with it a risk of flood.

The claims are denied. In their defence, both local authorities say the flood damage was caused by an act of God and that no liability in law attaches to them.

Both councils, represented by Turlough O’Donnell SC, said the flood waters at the Ault Bridge rose to such a level in early December 2005 that it represented a danger to the public. The problem was caused by a blockage to the storm channel due to the unauthorised dumping of waste and litter in the river.

The defendants, who accept that they carried out remedial actions at the bridge, also say they acted with all due care and expedition in what was an emergency situation.

Opening the case yesterday, Conor Halpin SC for the Rices said the water blockage at the bridge in early December should have been properly managed by the defendants. The blockage was removed and the water released by workmen acting on instructions issued over the telephone by an engineer.

Counsel said a council engineer should have been on-site to assess the situation at the bridge. Had an engineer been present, simple calculations would have revealed that unblocking it and releasing the waters was not the correct thing to do, counsel said.

Counsel said after the water was released a neighbour of the Rices had described a “loud roar” shortly before a “ mini tsunami” struck.

That neighbour had only just managed to escape before the water struck her home, counsel said, adding that the level of water at the properties had been described as having been as high as 10ft.

In his evidence, Mr Rice told the court it took between nine and 10 months for the damage to his home to be repaired.

He said the downstairs and interior of his home, which he and his wife had “taken great pride in” were damaged. In addition, he said the water damaged four trees that had been planted in his garden.

The case, before Ms Justice Marie Baker, continues.