If the unprecedented heavy rains continue over the weekend, then the flooding and devastation in east Galway will become worse, far worse than it is now, and may lead to a request for the Red Cross to go into Ballinasloe and the surrounding areas.
This is the view of Fine Gael Galway East TD Paul Connaughton who has witnessed the havoc caused by the recent floods. He is extremely concerned that the situation will only get worse over the next few days.
Met Éireann has warned that the heavy showers of this week will continue over the weekend and into early next week with even snow and frost likely as temperatures are set to plummet.
The rains have seen river levels rise, towns flooded, farmland turned into lakes, roads closed, and water levels on some roads and in some towns range from 16 inches to three/four feet. Homes and belongings have been damaged and farming and daily life disrupted in the eastern and southern parts of the county. Rail lines had to be closed and travel into the county was made difficult and in some places impossible.
“I have seen large floods before, particularly in 1990 and 1995 but this is much worse than anything before,” Dep Connaughton told the Galway Advertiser. “It’s more widespread. It’s gone to holy hell out here.”
Claregalway, Ballinasloe, Abbeyknockmoy and their surrounding areas, the north Galway region, and the areas around Gort and Ardrahan, have been the worst affected. Areas around Athenry were also badly hit.
“There are vast, vast expanses of water, right up to the doors and in some cases windows of homes in Ballinasloe. St Michael’s Square, where the horse fair is held, has been turned into a lake,” he said. “The contents of people’s houses is ruined. I know a lady who lives in a bungalow and when she got out of bed in the morning she stepped straight into water. Insurance companies will not insure some homes and others will not be insured again if they make a claim on this flooding damage.”
According to Dep Connaughton farming has also been badly hit in the region and it is “not known what the cost will be” once the extent of the damage is fully known. He said feedstuff has been ruined and silage bales been destroyed. While no livestock have been drowned, even sheds and barns on some farms have not been enough to keep the water out, and some farmers have had to move cattle into neighbours’ fields if their own are flooded.
“The tragedy is that the water has nowhere to seep out, there is no where for it to go, that is why things are so bad, and the rain just keeps coming,” he said.
There was some good news for Ballinasloe on Wednesday when a number of major arteries reopened. The main bridge over the River Suck has re-opened, and a stop go system is in place on the slip road coming into the N6 motorway.
However some 200 houses in the town have been affected by the floods, floods levels have not decreased all over the county, property is still damaged, and homeowners in areas like Derrymullen area are still under several feet of water.
As a result Dep Connaughton said the Red Cross may need to be called in to help deal with the situation in the Ballinasloe region. He said the society had already helped deal with the severe flooding in south Galway in the 1990s and that it had played an important role in the flood relief.
“There are similarities between what happened in the 1990s and now, except now it is much worse,” he said. “As such it may be necessary to call them in. However there are also a lot of actions that we need to take to prevent this from happening again.”
Already a boil notice has been put in place in Ballinasloe and will remain in place until further notice and all water supplies around the county are being monitored. One family was airlifted in Gort by the air corps while c40 people in Ballinasloe and two families in Craughwell were evacuated by the civil defence. In Athenry 13 families had to be evacuated while 25 families are on standby in Claregalway as water levels remain high.
Dep Connaughton said some form of compensation will have to be looked at for flood victims and An Taoiseach Brian Cowen has already indicated this will be considered.
According to Dep Connaughton the county’s drainage systems will have to be examined. Flooding in both the eastern and southern sections of the county are a result of debris, waste, and dirt building up in the mouths of tributary rivers to the Shannon.
As a result, when there are heavy rains, banks burst and the waters flood into the lands. The region is also characterised by turloughs and these have been turned into “lakes” by the heavy rain. Dep Connaughton wants to see measures taken to deal with this so future severe flooding are avoided.