Mountmellick residents say flooding happened ‘very, very fast’

Three rivers flooded the Co Laois town causing ‘mayhem and disaster’

Occupants of 35 houses in Mountmellick were evacuated and have yet to return to their homes. Video: Alan Betson

 

Residents in Mountmellick have spoken about how flood waters deluged their homes very quickly following torrential rain on Wednesday.

The occupants of 35 houses mostly in the Manor Court and Manor Grove estates were evacuated and have yet to return to their homes.

Bernadette Dunne, whose home in Manor Court was flooded, told RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that she had noticed a huge flood at the end of her drive when she went to collect her son from school.

When she returned to the house, she noticed that water was coming in “very, very fast”.

Flooding from the River Owenass on the Manor Road in Mountmellick, Co Laois Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
Flooding from the River Owenass on the Manor Road in Mountmellick, Co Laois Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Ms Dunne said that she and her family stayed in the house over night. However she said that water has lifted the floors in her hall and living room from the ground and sewage also came into her home.

Michelle Crystal, who runs a hairdressing salon in Mountmellick, said she stayed in an apartment over the salon last night.

She described how the flooding had “happened so quickly” that no one knew what was going on.

Photograph: Laois Fire and Rescue Twitter account
Photograph: Laois Fire and Rescue Twitter account

President Michael D Higgins expressed solidarity with the residents of the town and said such events are likely to be more frequent in the future because of climate change.

“This will be a devastating experience for them, and I want to thank all those in the state, local authority and voluntary sectors who are coming to their assistance,” he said.

“As events like this are occurring with greater frequency we will be called upon to draw on our resource of solidarity ever more often, and I know the Irish people will recognise and support the importance of good planning and policies that may prevent or mitigate such occurrences.”

‘Catastrophic’

The Defence Forces have been called in to deal with the clean-up of what has been described by Laois County Council official Kieran Kehoe as a “catastrophic” flash flood.

Thirty soldiers from Curragh camp are being dispatched to the town to help in the clean-up operation on Thursday. Ten of them are already on site.

Photograph: Laois Fire and Rescue Twitter account
Photograph: Laois Fire and Rescue Twitter account

They will assist in getting access to residents who have been cut off as a result of the flooding.

Several housing estates in the town were evacuated on Wednesday when the Owenass River burst its banks due to heavy rain resulting in flooded local access roads.

Water levels rose by two metres in 12 hours. The town remains impassable on Thursday, with more heavy rain forecast.

Fire crews from Co Laois were assisted by crews from counties Longford, Offaly and Westmeath. They have been getting sandbags out to affected premises.

A humanitarian aid and support centre has been set up in Wolfe Tone Court, near where most of the evacuations took place.

Flood waters are now heading for Portarlington, but Laois County Council has said it has made contingencies to deal with it.

Mr Kehoe, the director of services at Laois County Council, paid tribute to fire services and civil defence personnel who assisted in the evacutions.

He said it was still a “serious situation” in Mountmellick with river levels continue to rise.

He explained to Newstalk Breakfast how the flooding happened when water from three rivers – the Barrow, Owenass and Blackwater – flooded the town following heavy rain.

This followed heavy rain in the Slieve Bloom mountains on Wednesday.

“Flooding has happened in the past but not to this extent. We were on high alert, we had done the usual gully clearing, but this was an unprecedented level of water. This has had a catastrophic effect on the town.”

‘Mayhem and disaster’

Mr Kehoe said friends and family had provided accommodation for many of the families who fled their homes, but that the local authority had provided hotel rooms for 23 people in Portlaoise.

“We still have rooms available so we will be reaching out to people today and if they need them, rooms are there.”

Local councillor Paddy Bracken described the situation in Mountmellick as “mayhem and disaster. I never saw anything like it before. It’s unreal.”