As the River Shannon flood waters recede, urban and rural residents within the Athlone environs who have experienced a turbulent number of weeks are hoping that such a reduction in water levels will persist and allay further flooding fears.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, prior to addressing Dáil Éireann, in his capacity as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, intimated that water levels along the river had started to fall.
“Although water levels remain high, there is a 10ml decrease upstream of Athlone, a 10ml fall in levels at Deerpark and a 20ml subsidence of the levels at The Strand.
“The good news is the water is finally starting to turn with a further decrease in levels expected over the coming days,” Minister Moran stated.
While sixteen pumps remain operational at various flood effected locations, it is expected that as water levels drop, the need for their continuous operation will reduce.
Lauding the unified efforts of the local authority, agencies and volunteers who have worked diligently during such a tumultuous period, Minister Moran noted their “resilient efforts” in a time of adversity.
Confirming the stabilisation and imminent reduction of water levels, Director of Services, Westmeath County Council, noted that the permanent defences installed, supplemented by temporary preventative measures played a prominent role pertaining to flood relief within the urban area of the town.
Akin to Minister Moran, the Director of Services acclaimed the cohesive efforts of those involved in alleviating the flood concerns of residents within the effected locations, noting the “onerous task” of continuously manning pumps, with the threat of sewage seepage a concern.
Noting that no houses had been significantly inundated by flood waters, Mr. Kehoe acknowledged that three persons had to seek alternative accommodation due to an increase in water levels which effected their abodes.
Pertaining to the rising flood waters effect on the rural community, the Director of Services noted that members of the local farming community were struggling to keep fodder dry, but support was being provided to those in need.
“The local authority and Defence Forces are supporting those in our rural community meeting transport requirements, filling and placing sandbags where necessary, while temporary chemical toilets have also been afforded to those families whose septic tanks are not operational at present,” Mr. Kehoe continued.
The Director of Services further referenced the voluntary homeowner relocation scheme, a national scheme of humanitarian assistance, targeting aid at those worst affected flood properties, for which there are no alternative feasible measures.
“For those who do not wish to avail of this initiative, utilising the individual property protection scheme maybe a viable alternative,” Mr. Kehoe added.
Stressing the urgent need to complete permanent flood relief works, Mr. Kehoe stated the aspiration for such measures to be concluded at Deerpark by the close of the year.
“In conjunction with the OPW, it is hoped that flood relief measures would be of an order to protect our town by 2021,” Mr. Kehoe affirmed.
Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, reiterated that Athlone was “open for business as usual” despite the flooding debacle and echoing similar sentiments to those expressed by the Director of Services, afforded due praise to the numerous personnel who worked earnestly to ensure residents fears were alleviated.
“Permanent flood defences installed have proved successful in this particular instance, but relevant partial measures need to be completed as soon as viably possible. Floods of this ilk are not a once in a one hundred year experience and are unfortunately more common these times. Our local communities should not have to live in flooding fear but this is an issue which is of ongoing concern,” Cllr. Keena concluded.