Extra funds to tackle worst floods in living memory

Cabinet to increase emergency budget as 260 homes evacuated and 130 others marooned

Aerial footage shows the serious situation in Clonmel and it’s hinterland as water continues to rise. Local residents have been warned to be ready to evacuate their homes. Video: Alan O’Reilly/EOS Productions

 

The Government will tomorrow approve a substantial increase in funding for flood relief and a new flood forecasting service as it intensifies efforts to deal with the most widespread and prolonged event in living memory.

The crisis will dominate the first Cabinet meeting of the year tomorrow. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has requested detailed memoranda from all Ministers with responsibility in the area, including estimated costs of prevention and rescue work, repair to damaged roads and infrastructure, and associated clean-up costs.

A relatively modest €23 million has been allowed to date for three emergency funds but that funding is expected to be significantly increased.

As water levels topped 2009 record levels over the course of the weekend, and with further heavy rains forecast for later this week, the National Co-ordination Group yesterday outlined the full extent of the crisis.

It said an estimated 260 homes across the country have now been evacuated, including 14 homes in Kilganey on the south bank of the Suir in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. A further 18 apartments were evacuated in Athlone, Co Westmeath yesterday evening.

The group said 230 homes were also under immediate threat and an additional 130 households remain marooned by flooded roads and fields.

The group said “virtually” all counties have now been affected by flooding since the series of storms began in early December, making it the most extensive flooding in living memory.

Gerald Fleming, chief forecaster with Met Éireann, said “a brief respite” from heavy downpours would be felt across much of the country this week. However, “another rain event” was forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday morning which has the potential to bring another significant fall of rain.

Warning service

Alan Kelly

The Taoiseach will also meet the responsible bodies in the Shannon catchment area. He will ask if there are immediate and interim measures that can be put in place for the 66 flood risk areas along the river.

Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Simon Harris is likely to begin considering applications for medium-term flood defence gates in towns such as Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny. A fund of €29 million is available for such works.

There is also a strong possibility that flood defences may have to be built for individual homes which have become prone to flooding.

Clare-based Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley yesterday said the Government should now consider a relocation programme for a small number of households whose homes have become flooded multiple times over recent years.