Rising local flood waters continue to cause immense public concern

RONAN FAGAN

The rising flood waters of the River Shannon continue to be monitored as the perilous situation presently effecting numerous residences within the local community shows no imminent indication of abating with further rainfall promised.

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, viewed the extent of the flooding in Athlone on Monday afternoon and accompanied by Minister of State, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, met with residents who expressed their immense fears that the water levels will surpass the record height of 2015.

Noting the forecast for river levels received from the ESB on Tuesday afternoon, which indicated that the River Shannon in Athlone will continue to rise up to Friday (the highest predicted level being approximately twenty centimetres above current levels ), Westmeath County Council made the a prompt decision to activate its Flood Emergency Response Plan following a meeting of the local authority’s Interagency Response Committee.

A statement released by Westmeath County Council post meeting noted that representatives of the Defence Forces, An Garda Siochána, Irish Water, HSE, Civil Defence and the Department of Social Protection would continue to protect public infrastructure, assist people to protect their homes and businesses, and to provide other humanitarian assistance.

“The combination of permanent and temporary flood defences in Athlone town is proving to be effective in preventing significant flooding and it is anticipated that the predicted rise of twenty centimetres will not cause major difficulties in the town.

“However, the inundation of rural areas adjacent to the Shannon is causing major issues for rural residents and farmers. Assistance is being provided to people in these areas and this will be widened as the need arises in terms of transport and other services over the coming days,” a Westmeath County Council spokesperson stressed.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran has noted the onerous challenge of controlling the rising flood waters, with incessant rainfall and heavy winds proving to be immensely problematic since Thursday of last week.

“While weather conditions have caused much concern and fear to those residents currently effected by the flood water, the plan presently implemented by Westmeath County Council is working and I would like to praise the united efforts of the relevant agencies and local volunteers, all of whom are working earnestly to alleviate the present situation,” the Minister of State remarked.

Noting that rural areas within the town were at significant flood risk, Minister Moran confirmed that six major pumps were continuously working to reduce rising water levels and alleviate the fears of those residents effected.

“We are assisting our rural community in the best manner possible in the hope of allaying their farming concerns at this particular time and with this in mind I would implore upon the future Government to provide immediate grant aid to assist with their fodder needs,” Minister Moran stressed.

The Minister of State, who announced a ten year €1 billion programme of investment in flood relief measures in May 2018, stated that progressive work had concluded in a number of flood cells within Athlone but it was a process which necessitated time.

Expressing his hope that the rising waters would “level off” on Friday, ‘Boxer’ noted that each passing hour was “difficult to read” with local knowledge of the river an advantage in the present situation.

“The ten year flood relief programme is now in place with river maintenance work ongoing.

“I sincerely hope that the new Government, when elected, will continue to afford this programme prominent recognition to allay the flooding fears of our local communities in future times,” Minister Moran concluded.

 

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