Bantry counting the cost of another major flood event

October 24th, 2020 8:00 PM

By Jackie Keogh

The water receding in Bantry on Tuesday morning after many shops were flooded.

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NINE weeks after 50 businesses were badly damaged by a surface water flood, Bantry was hit by a tidal flood on Tuesday morning that damaged 25 more businesses and homes.

On August 25th, an unprecedented level of surface water flowed from high ground into the town centre and came erupting up from the culverts beneath New Street and damaged not only one quarter of the town’s 200 businesses it also caused the road to buckle from underneath.

Met Éireann’s yellow rain and wind warning on Monday had everyone on high alert, but it was the warning by the Office of Public Works of ‘very high astronomical Spring tides in all coastal areas’ that caused the greatest worry in Bantry.

After a night of persistent, heavy rainfall, businesses owners waited anxiously and watched with one eye on the town’s 200-year old culvert system to see if it would take the strain and the other eye on the rising tide.

Diarmaid Murphy, the chairman of Bantry Business Association, described the heightened sense of alert saying: ‘Since August – the height of the summer season – people become anxious when the weather turns bad.’

The heavy rainfall on Monday night into Tuesday morning, combined with strong south easterly winds and the rising tide resulted in Wolfe Tone Square being flooded.

Homes, businesses, and parked cars were damaged by both surface rain and coastal water as it surrounded the large and brightly coloured brick plaza in the centre of town.

Parts of New Street, which was worst affected in August, did not escape either as the surface water crept into several shops that were located closest to Wolfe Tone Square.

Diarmaid described the event as ‘a disaster’ with the worst of the flooding happening at around 6.30am, just 90 minutes short of high tide.

It was a combination of three elements – the rain, the strong south easterly gusts, and the storm surge levels at sea, conspired to drive the water into the square and it only fully receded when the tide receded.

According to Diarmaid: ‘The community rallied after August but this is catastrophic because it’s obvious to all that this is going to be a recurring problem.’

Diarmaid confirmed that business association representatives had an online meeting with Council officials on Wednesday, October 14th, and a number of issues were discussed. However, he said it emerged that it will be 2022 before the culvert system is upgraded, and 2026 before the OPW flood prevention scheme is put in place.

Fianna Fáil TD, Christopher O’Sullivan has called on the OPW and Cork County Council to ‘get their skates on.’ He said: ‘It’s becoming all too easy to predict now that Bantry Square will flood when the tide is high and the winds are southerly. The town deserves better.’

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has opened the Emergency Humanitarian Aid Scheme for small business, community, voluntary and sporting bodies in Cork City and County affected by recent flooding.

The scheme provides urgent funding of up to €20,000 to small businesses, sports clubs, community and voluntary organisations that could not secure flood insurance and have premises that have been damaged by recent exceptional weather events.

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