Families request evacuation as flood threatens town

Locals, council staff, Defence Forces and Civil Defence keep floodwater out of Athlone houses with additional pumps deployed in worst-affected areas

Flooding  this week along the banks of the Shannon river near Athlone town. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Flooding this week along the banks of the Shannon river near Athlone town. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Westmeath County Council has placed two families in alternative accommodation as flooding continues to threaten parts of Athlone town.

While the family’s homes on the west side of town were not flooded, both houses suffered flooding in 2009 and the families asked to be moved because they found the current situation too stressful.

River Shannon levels in Athlone rose by about 8cm between Wednesday and Thursday. However, due to the efforts of locals, council staff, the Defence Forces and the civil defence, floodwater was kept out of houses. Additional pumps have been deployed in some of the worst-affected areas.

In places such as Deerpark Road, the water levels appear to have dropped. Despite the flood defence measures, there are major concerns about the impact further predicted bad weather could have on the town.

Director of services at Westmeath County Council Barry Kehoe is hoping the forecast provided by the ESB is not accurate. It suggests a further rise of 31cm which would see the Shannon at levels just below those of 2009. “There is a bad forecast for Saturday of heavy rainfall,” Mr Kehoe said. “The effect of it will be to drag out the whole scenario into next week.”

While some waste water had mixed with the flood water, Mr Kehoe said there was no problem with the water supply in the town. “It [the floodwater] always needs to be treated as dirty water and a hazard,” he said, adding that the council was prepared for evacuations.

In the case of the two families who were provided with accommodation on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr Kehoe said “some people have requested alternative accommodation as it is just too stressful for them”.

In outlying areas such as Clonbonny and Carrickobrien, some people were “marooned”, Mr Kehoe said. A transport service was being provided to bring children to school, to take people to medical appointments and for other essential journeys.

Although areas like the Strand and Wolfe Tone Terrace remain under threat on the east side of town, and Deerpark Road and The Park and Parnell Square on the west side, the remainder of the town is continuing to operate as normal.

The Defence Forces has between 30 and 35 troops filling sandbags and moving heavy pumps in Athlone. A spokesman said the troops had been on flood defence operations since 7am.

In Co Offaly, two houses are flooded in Shannon Harbour. Nearby, in Shannonbridge, pumps have been deployed and sandbags have been distributed at the Portavolla estate in Banagher, Co Offaly, as waters continue to rise.