Heartbreak for widow Breda Caulfield as home flooded for second time in six years

Breda Caulfield leaving her home with the help of her daughter Rosemarie at Clonown Road, Athlone after it was flooded 
Photo: Hany Marzouk

Breda Caulfield leaving her home with the help of her daughter Rosemarie at Clonown Road, Athlone after it was flooded Photo: Hany Marzouk

For the second time in six years Breda Caulfield of Clonown Road, Athlone, has been forced to witness her home and property succumb to the rising levels of the Shannon.

Mrs Caulfield and her family have expressed their disappointment and anger towards the local council due to their belief that more could have been done to protect her property, where she has lived for almost 50 years.

The situation became serious for Mrs Caulfield on Monday, December 7, at which time her daughter, Rosemarie, made Westmeath County Council aware that her mother's home was in desperate danger of flooding. The council attended the house on the day and all of the furniture was lifted onto blocks to protect it from possible damage.

However, on Tuesday and Wednesday the situation deteriorated dramatically, and by Thursday water about four to six inches deep had entered the residence causing significant damage and forcing an upset Mrs Caulfield from her home once again.

The Caulfield family have expressed their anger towards Westmeath County Council, whom they believe could and should have done more to protect the property. In a statement released on Monday the council responded to the Caulfield family, saying: "The council is aware of the flooding of Mrs Caulfield’s house and has received correspondence from Mrs Caulfield’s relatives in this regard.

"While the council regrets the flooding of this house, the council is not in a position to defend all private property from flooding and has no duty to do so. It is the council’s understanding that Mrs Caulfield was evacuated by her relatives on that date and that the house was unoccupied thereafter. The next contact from the family was on Thursday, December 10, at which stage the house was sandbagged but water was rising up through the floors within the house and the house was fully surrounded by flood water.

"Additional sandbags were delivered and consideration was given to pumping. However, it was considered that in the circumstances, pumping would not be effective. The council will respond in detail to the queries raised by the Caulfields when staff become available. All staff are fully engaged in the current flood response."

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Caulfield family responded angrily to the county council's claims, saying: "We are very disappointed with the tone and content of this statement, and in particular the inaccurate assertion that no contact was made between Monday, December 7, and Thursday, December 10. It is not true to state that the next contact by us was on Thursday, December 10."

The Caulfield family say several attempts were made to contact the council and a councillor on Monday and Tuesday, and while verbal promises were made no steps were taken to save the residence.

The Caulfield family say there are several issues the council need to clarify in this instance: who in the council decided what property should be defended; what criteria was used to decide what properties should be defended and where resources and manpower should be used; why did the council cherry pick certain private properties to defend and felt a duty to defend certain private property at the expense of Mrs Caulfield's.

The Caulfield family say they are looking forward to a detailed response in due course from the county council.

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