Group warns all main rivers in danger of bursting banks

Greatest danger from Shannon and other large rivers in south

Flooding along the river Shannon in the areas of Ballinalose and Athlone.

Flooding along the river Shannon in the areas of Ballinalose and Athlone.

 

Many people in Ireland are bracing themselves after the National Emergency Coordination Group yesterday warned all of the country’s main rivers are at risk of bursting their banks, while Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the “huge” cost of bolstering flood defences means some coastal areas may have to be surrendered to the sea.

The group said the greatest danger was from the Shannon and other large rivers in the south and southeast, including the Blackwater, the Barrow, Nore and Suir.

Liam Basquille, principle officer in the Office of Public Works, said the level of water in the Shannon was of special concern. “It is a very flat river that doesn’t allow for the flow of water at a very rapid pace.”

“On the other main river systems, we are monitoring the situation very closely. We have a comprehensive system and network of river level gauges throughout the country and that information is publicly available on a website called waterlevel.ie.”

Met Éireann head of forecasting Gerald Fleming said rivers have become very high in the last couple of months and more rainfall over the next nine days will raise water levels still further.

“What we see in the weather in the next six, seven, eight, nine days is very little change in the sort of set-up we’ve had,” he said. “We’re going to have one weather system after another bringing more and more rain so we do foresee in a general sense the river levels will continue to rise and river flooding will become more of a problem.”

Government concern
Speaking last night, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the Government had become “concerned” about the rising water levels in rivers and is “monitoring the situation”.

The Government is to provide a €250 million fund to bolster flood defences over the next five years – but Mr Hogan said the “huge expenditure” associated with implementing defences means many areas will have to go without. “It’s huge expenditure, but whether we have scientific evidence or not in relation to climate change, it looks as if we’re going to have these types of weather patterns in the future and we have to plan for them,” he said.

Asked therefore if not every region can be accommodated, could some parts of the coastline be surrendered to the sea, he said “absolutely, we’re in an era where we have finite resources”.