Call for southeast’s coastal defences to be strengthened

Fears of further devastation due to dangers of high tides overnight

Strengthening the southeast's coastal defences is to be a priority in the coming months following the latest bout of storm damage which looks set to make the total clean-up and repair bill approach €9 million for Co Waterford alone.

A combination of high tides, heavy rainfall and strong winds from the south meant more bad news for people along the embattled coastline yesterday morning.

Tramore was again hit badly by flooding while villages along the Suir estuary were also swamped.

Houses and businesses in places including Passage East and Cheekpoint on the Waterford side of the estuary suffered from an early morning high tide, as did the likes of Ballyhack and Arthurstown on the Wexford side.

The quays in New Ross were flooded, as well as the bridge outside the town, while Waterford city’s quays were also hit with knock-on effects for traffic and local business.

A number of houses in Waterford city, particularly in the Poleberry area and around Manor Street and Bath Street, had to be evacuated yesterday when the high tide led to rapidly rising river waters and, eventually, severe damage to local residences.

Ted O’Meara from Poleberry said the residents, many of whom had to be taken from the area by boat, had never seen such flooding in their district.

“The houses are completely destroyed,” he said, “and we’re afraid it will be the same tomorrow because of the high tides. The high tide came in at about eight o’clock this morning and there are sandbags outside the houses, but they didn’t stop the water.

“The tide is gone down now but they’re giving more of the same for tomorrow. It’s never been like this, in history.”

In Passage East, the rising tide backed by strong southerly winds also meant for unprecedented flooding yesterday, particularly along Blynd Quay and in Post Office Square.

"It came in very quickly," local resident Sandra Mason said. "At 7.30am it was fine, but by 8am some of the houses were absolutely destroyed. I've never, in all my life living in Passage, seen anything like it. There's fences that have been washed away, houses destroyed, it's horrific."

Severe damage
The water receded later in the morning but severe damage was left behind.

“Our house insurance doesn’t cover us for flooding but it has never, as far as I can remember, been this bad. It was just a stream of water. The streets turned into a river.”

Council engineer Ken Walsh said the storms of recent times, initially Storm Christine around the turn of the year and then Storm Bridget at the weekend, are causing "misery and hardship" for many people in Co Waterford.

As well as at Passage East and Cheekpoint, the promenade and associated areas in Tramore had been “just getting a battering by waves”, Mr Walsh added, and were closed to traffic.

The cost of the storm damage in the area after Christmas was estimated at €8.5 million before the weekend, he said.

Now council officials would have to tally the cost of the latest clean-up work and repairs in the coming days, which meant the bill was likely to be higher.

Seasonal flooding,
Residents and business people in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, have been keeping their fingers crossed that they will not be hit by the seasonal flooding, following the heavy local rainfall.

The completion of flood defence walls and installation of demountable barriers along the town’s quays appear to have done their job, so far at least.

The river Suir was clearly travelling above road level yesterday morning but remained below the top of the new walls.

However, council officials and local people are on high alert, while upstream in Ardfinnan the Suir has burst its banks on a number of occasions recently.

“The flood defences seem to be working,” Séamus Healy, Independent TD and native of the normally flood-prone area of Old Bridge in Clonmel, said yesterday. “It’s very odd to be looking at the television and seeing floods in other places, but not here.”