Towns on south, west coasts at ‘real risk’ of further flooding

People in affected areas urged to ‘keep away from coastline if you don’t need to be there’

Many parts of Galway city have been flooded due to storm Eleanor. Video: Joe O'Shaughnessy

 

Power has been restored to about 148,000 homes and businesses in the aftermath of Storm Eleanor.

ESB Networks has said that as of 5pm, 2,000 customers who lost supply during Tuesday night’s storm remain without power but its crews are continuing to make repairs.

On Wednesday, high winds and lightning, mainly in the mid-west of the country, resulted in a further 4,500 homes, farms and businesses losing power, it said.

“We expect that all but small pockets of ESB Networks customers will have their power restored this evening,” it added in an updated statement.

However, with further high winds expected on Wednesday night and into Thursday, more power outages are anticipated.

Towns along the south and west coasts also remain at risk of further flooding.

The Government’s National Emergency Coordination Group met on Wednesday morning to discuss the impact of Storm Eleanor, which led to flooding in parts of Galway, Cork and Limerick and left thousands without power.

Seán Hogan, chair of the group, said there was “unfortunately still some threats coming towards us”, with the south and west coasts most at risk.

“Towns along the south and west coast remain at risk because of the arrival of strong winds allied with the high tides,” he said. “That, allied with a particular wind direction and wave conditions like what happened in Galway Bay yesterday, poses a real threat of further flooding along the south and west coast.”

Mr Hogan said adequate warning had been given to local authorities in relation to Storm Eleanor, but there were always limitations as storms can change direction. “What was a surprise is the extent of what happened in Galway and the speed at which that happened,” he added.

‘Keep away’

Mr Hogan urged members of the public living in towns along the south and west coasts to “keep away from the coastline if you don’t need to be there”.

Met Éireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said high winds would hit the south and west coasts on Wednesday night and the south coast on Thursday morning.

“That’s the end of this very strong Atlantic air flow. We’re then into the cold regime, a dramatic change at the weekend with severe frost.”

ESB Networks said it was attempting to restore power to some 16,000 properties, with 10,000 of those affected in Co Mayo. The company said power had been restored to 134,000 customers affected by the storm and that it hoped to have all faults fixed by Wednesday night.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said there was adequate preparation and planning for Storm Eleanor.

“We have very sophisticated modelling techniques to look at different storm events as they come in. But we can’t predict all the vagaries of weather, and sometimes things will happen that weren’t predicted in the models.”

Mr Murphy said warnings were given to each of the local authorities by his department and Met Éireann.

“The local authorities then work based on the warnings that they are given. Sometimes we won’t be able to predict everything that has happened and very unfortunately a number of businesses have been hit in Galway.”

‘Back on their feet’

Mr Murphy said emergency schemes are being rolled out to help affected people get “back on their feet”.

Minister for Climate and the Environment Denis Naughten said “you cannot directly associate any single event with climate change”.

“The reality is the severity of the storms that we’re seeing this particular season is as a result of the polar air mass has gone significantly further south in the Atlantic,” he said. “That has increased the power and ferocity of the storms that we’re experiencing at this particular winter.”

Mr Naughten added that the frequency of storms and flooding could, however, be associated with climate change.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said staff from her department were “on standby” to help people whose homes may have been affected by flooding.

Staff at the Department of Employment and Social Protection will be available from Wednesday morning to support householders in areas affected by Storm Eleanor.

The department’s Community Welfare Services staff will engage with relevant local authorities and will assess the level of service required across the country, particularly in the Galway area.

Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe announced the provision of a humanitarian flooding scheme to provide emergency assistance for small businesses, sports clubs and community organisations which were unable to secure flood insurance but which have been affected by flooding due to Storm Eleanor.

The scheme will be administered by the Irish Red Cross, with details due to be made available on their website.