Residents of a Moyside neighbourhood in Ballina are weighed down with worry as they start what has become for them a dreaded countdown to Christmas.
That is because they are living in terrible fear that their homes will once again be devastated by flood water this winter should the River Moy burst its banks again as it did during high tides and stormy weather early in the New Year.
Householders in Arbuckle Row, Bachelor’s Walk and Clare Street say there are growing fears they are facing a repeat disaster - but this time on Christmas Day itself - following a warning about an extremely high tide expected to peak on the morning of December 25.
The residents have now joined forces to form the Flooded Homes Association to appeal to the local authority, elected representatives and the Office of Public Works (OPW ) to take swift action and put proper flood prevention measures in place and protect their homes.
The issue of the potential flooding was raised at the September meeting of the Ballina Municipal District by Cllr Jarlath Munnelly and Cllr Seamus Weir.
The councillors called for measures to be taken to ensure that the flooding that effected a large number of homes last winter is controlled this year, with an exceptionally high tide expected this Christmas Day.
Director of Services for Mayo County Council, Paul Benson explained to the meeting that the council has no role in the construction of flood defences. Benson told the meeting that it was the responsibility of the OPW to construct flood defences and the council has no budget to construct them. He also told the meeting that the council did an assessment after last winter’s storms and identified 100 potential houses that could be affected by flooding in the future and send out surveys to them where they would be included in a flood warning text system, but so far only 21 houses have replied to them.
Benson also went on to say that while the council were aware of the predicted very high tide that has been published, which is expected to be 5.4m in height, there is new information that saying the prediction could be an error. Benson told the meeting that if there was a tide of that height combined with a number of other factors, such as a large volume of water in the Moy at the same time, there would be areas that had never been flooded before which would be affected.
In a statement to the Mayo Advertiser this week, members of the Flooded Homes Association expressed their disappointment that the area has not yet been approved for flood prevention work.
A spokesperson for the group, who is a resident of Arbuckle Row, said 40 homeowners were badly hit by the flooding last New Year but as many as 150 homes are at risk in the area.
He said the average cost of damage for each homeowner on his street was in the region of €25,000.
Property values have also taken a hefty hit and homeowners can no longer secure flood insurance.
“With predicted massive high tides set to hit the area this Christmas Day, residents now potentially face the same ordeal all over again with the added stress of financial ruin as their homes are now no longer covered by flood insurance,” he said. “The residents in the area are living in fear of what lies ahead.”
Mayo County Council, director of services, Paul Benson advised that residents prepare themselves as best they can with their own flood defences and told this week’s, Ballina Municipal District meeting that there was one house in the affected area last year that had no flood damage, even with three feet of water around, as they had purchased flood gates.