THE middle week of August 2020 will not be remembered fondly by the people of West Cork, especially those whose homes suffered damage as a result of the torrential rain that caused flooding on the morning of the 13th in the wider Rosscarbery area and again two days later with Dunmanway also being badly affected. This was caused by the elements and the local authority and emergency services could only react as best they could to the situation.
However, it was a different story in Skibbereen less than a week later when, following a Red Alert weather warning, flooding caused by the wind and rain associated with Storm Ellen affected many properties on Bridge Street, with some of them under a reported three feet of water, and further floods at Cork Road. This was a shock to the residents and businesses affected because they had assumed that the recently-completed Skibbereen Flood Scheme would have protected them.
However, this scheme was put in place to prevent flooding from the Ilen River and its tributaries, also taking account the tidal effects. The cause of the flooding in Bridge Street – and not for the first time – was water rushing down from the hill above ‘The Cutting’ (the former railway line) but not being captured in a culvert from which it would be piped down Ilen Street to the river, because it seems the culvert was blocked, so it flowed down the road and out into Bridge Street instead, flooding houses and businesses.
Funding had been provided by the Office of Public Works to Cork County Council to construct a large concrete chamber with a specially-manufactured screen arrangement where the over-ground drain entered into the piped drain. The work was started earlier this year and largely completed before Covid-19 hit, but they had not returned to it since construction work was allowed to resume last May.
With the Red Alert weather warning last week for West Cork, one would have assumed that Council personnel would have checked that the culvert in ‘The Cutting’ was not blocked and had somebody on hand sooner with a key to open a storm drain outside the Eldon Hotel that could have mitigated some of the flooding. Ditto other parts of the town that were not protected by the Skibbereen Flood Relief Scheme.
The Council has a duty of care to the residents and business people of Skibbereen and they, in turn, have every right to be angry with the local authority over what happened and to seek recompense for their losses.