Cork County Council defends its flooding response

Bishop says what was missing locally was somebody who looked to be in charge

Flooding in Bandon, Co Cork. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Flooding in Bandon, Co Cork. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey defended the council’s response to flooding in Midleton and Bandon after the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Paul Colton, expressed concern at the lack of a local co-ordinated response.

Mr Lucey said the council’s response was directed by its severe weather action team which met 17 times during Storm Frank, and that the council had decided early on December 30th to seek support from the Defence Forces to assist in both Midleton and Bandon.

According to Mr Lucey, county council staff were mobilised to respond to the emerging situation, and 548 staff, including local authority, fire service and Civil Defence personnel, responded to the event.

He said more than 31,000 sandbags were distributed to those in need in the county between December 4th and January 5th, with 13,500 of them distributed in the Midleton area where the Owenacurra and Dungourney rivers burst their banks.

Mr Lucey’s statement summarising the council’s response came just hours after Bishop Colton said people in Midleton and Bandon expressed concern at the lack of an overall co-ordinated response to the flooding.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ radio, Bishop Colton said he had been out visiting communities in Bandon and Midleton where he saw the great work that was being done by agencies and volunteers but it appeared to lack a co-ordinated overview.

Desperate

“I have been out and about . . . what I am hearing is that there is a sense locally that no one has an overview and people are asking ‘who is in charge, who do I turn to’?” said Bishop Colton.

He said many people were desperate over the Christmas period as many State offices were closed.

“What was missing was an overview, an overseer, somebody who looks as if they are in charge of the situation locally – a boss as it were,” he said, instancing how in Midleton many people, including the elderly, had to transport sandbags in their own cars to protect their homes.

He gave the case of one family which was flooded out of its home and had to be accommodated in the dormitories of Midleton College, where he chairs the board of directors, because there was no accommodation available in local hotels or elsewhere.

Repairs

Mr Lucey said 10 council tenants and their families were affected by flooding in Midleton, and the council provided alternative accommodation for five of these families. An assessment has begun on the remaining properties with a view to carrying out repairs.

He acknowledged that Bishop Colton had made his comments in “good faith”, but said it was “regrettable“ that the case of a family having to be housed in Midleton College was not brought to the council’s attention as the council could have put it in contact with the relevant agency.

“Many families in private housing tend to evacuate themselves without any recourse to the council.

“Where assistance is sought we make arrangements for alternative accommodation and welfare through our co-ordinated agency response, and this occurred in other situations over the past week.”

Mr Lucey pointed out that since Christmas Day 1,773 calls were received by the council’s emergency response telephone line.

A further 329 calls were received by the fire service between December 29th and January 3rd, while 15,000 engaged with the council’s Facebook page during Storm Frank.