The river Shannon is expected to swell further in coming days with heavy rain set to pose a heightened risk of flooding for roads and properties in Westmeath, Clare and Limerick.
About 90 homes are at risk of flooding in Athlone since the Shannon began breaching its banks in the town overnight, according to latest estimates from the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, after the river rose by six inches in certain parts over 48 hours.
Athlone residents are struggling to keep flood water, and sewage coming up from the drains, out of their houses, and John Barry of the Department of the Environment indicated that little can be done to prevent further spillage and said it is now a question of “waiting for waters to recede and a clean-up operation after that”.
A status yellow weather warning for heavy rain on Saturday is in place from Thursday evening.
Met Éireann stated: “A spell of heavy rain is forecast for Saturday, mainly affecting Munster, Connacht and Leinster. Details of this event are still uncertain, follow up warnings will be issued during Friday morning.”
Forecaster Evelyn Cusack earlier said there could be between 50 and 80mm of rain “in parts of Munster, Connacht, perhaps into parts of Donegal as well”.
Defence Forces commandant Tom McGuinness said Army units have been deployed to six locations across the west to help with flood relief efforts.
Clare County Council has requested assistance from the Defence Forces in its flood defence efforts in the Springfield area. One family in the area has left because of difficulty with access, while another has decided to leave because the water level is now unsafe.
The ESB says it has maintained the level of water discharge from Parteen Weir at 375 cubic metres per second for today, but said this is expected to increase over the coming days dependent on rainfall levels.
Any such move will cause further concern for people in the Clonlara, Springfield, Montpelier, Castleconnell and Lisnagry areas of south east Clare and Limerick county, which have already seen water levels rise and are susceptible to flooding following large releases from Parteen.
In Athlone, staff at Deerpark Windows were attempting to pump water away from the business. "We are fighting a losing battle, I think," said company director Anthony Grehan. "I would imagine it is going to get higher. We are surrounded on four sides."
In recent days business has ceased as all staff have been busy trying to prevent the flood and move stock to safety, said Mr Grehan. “There’s no insurance here, we have to help ourselves,” he added.
On the west side of town on Wednesday, director of services with Westmeath County Council Barry Kehoe was assessing the situation at the Strand and Wolfe Tone Terrace, where Army personnel were placing sandbags. In the previous 24 hours, Shannon river levels had risen by 7cm.
Mr Kehoe said the latest forecasts indicate the water will rise by a further 40cm by next Monday, equalling the November 2009 flood levels when more than 100 houses flooded.
“If that level is reached it is going to be extremely difficult, if not to impossible, to stop a substantial number of houses from getting flooded,” he explained. Mr Kehoe described the latest forecast as “really disappointing”, particularly as the floods are likely to affect the same residents as the 2009 floods.
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