Despite the reprieve in rainfall levels in recent days, homes and businesses in the Athlone area are continuing to bear the brunt of the Shannon’s relentless rise.
The situation came to a head for many last Sunday, January 3, when 23 residential units in Bastion Quay apartments were evacuated due to loss of electrical supply caused by rising water levels. A number of residents in cut-off rural areas of Carrickobrien and Golden Island were also transferred to alternative accommodation, and by Monday morning 48 families were accommodated in hotels in the locality.
Power was restored to the Bastion Quay apartments on Monday evening and residents were able to return to their homes. By Tuesday morning the number of families in emergency accommodation stood at 32.
Speaking about the ongoing crisis, Cllr Frankie Keena said it was “soul destroying” to see people’s homes and businesses so badly affected.
“People are working around the clock trying to keep the water away from their homes. I have seen a few homes where water has started to come up between the floorboards and kitchen units. Last week I was working closely with a family from Clonbonny desperately trying to keep the water from their home, and it is just heartbreaking.”
Cllr Keena reiterated his thanks to all the volunteers and agencies involved in fighting the rising flood waters. “They have all been manning pumps 24/7 throughout the holiday period when they should have been at home with their families, and there really has been a phenomonal effort put in to help those affected.”
Business in the Golden Island area have been particularly affected, with many forced to shut up shop in recent weeks.
Quality Car Wash has been closed since last Tuesday, and owner John Mirgian says he has no idea when he will be able to open his business to the public again.
“The flooding is very bad, and cars can’t get into the business. There is nothing we can do, we can’t open the doors; we just have to wait till the flooding goes down. We are losing money every week, and we still have to pay the rent,” said John, whose home in Canal Walk is also at risk of flooding.
Neighbouring business EK Fuels have also suffered a lot of damage to their Golden Island premises, and manager Stephen Donnan says they won’t know the extent of the damage until the water recedes.
Meanwhile the road outside Lennon’s Fair Deal Tyres has been flooded since the second week in December, causing a “huge loss of business” according to owner Seamus Lennon.
“We haven’t been open since the day before Christmas Eve. We are unable to get inside due to the flooding; water is coming up though the gulleys, and the traffic is causing as much trouble. We will be remaining closed for the foreseeable future.”
The River Shannon remains at a high level through Athlone and its hinterland but is expected to stabilise and begin to recede over the coming days. The ESB has forecasted that river levels will not rise any further between now and January 8 and may even fall slightly.
Any householders or business owners experiencing difficulties or requiring assistance are asked to contact Westmeath County Council.