BANTRY was the worst hit town in West Cork when Storm Francis struck on Monday night, with an estimated 50 homes and businesses damaged by surface water flooding.
John Donegan, a senior engineer with Cork County Council, confirmed that there was extensive flooding at Wolfe Tone Square, New Street, Bridge Street and Main Street and that the problem was caused by the filling to excess of the culvert system following prolonged intensive rainfall in an already saturated catchment.
He said Council crews, assisted by Bantry Fire Brigade, worked throughout the night to help clear the flood water and assist homeowners and shopkeepers to clear their properties of flood water.
The Council engineer also confirmed that the flood resulted in some road damage as well and a number of roads in the town being closed pending assessment.
Local video footage showed that the force of the water actually lifted the tarred surface and when the waters receded early in the morning some of the roads – particularly the one in New Street, which seemed to take the strongest flow of water – were torn up and made impassable.
An estimated 50 properties were damaged as a result of the river-like flood and although it was between ankle high to 2ft in places, it was enough to cause havoc in the town centre.
Traffic disruption continued into Tuesday.
Council staff were on hand to assist homeowners and business people, while other staff and consultants were engaged in carrying out a structural assessment on the existing culvert system – which is an underground network of drains – to see if the system is still structurally sound.
The local authority engineer said they were concerned because the road surface had lifted by 50mm in some places.
Local Cllr Danny Collins described the flooding in Bantry as ‘pure and utter devastation.’
He told The Southern Star his ‘heart goes out to those flooded’ and confirmed the Council’s assessment of the situation.
‘The culverts could not take the water and it caused major damage to New Street and part of Main Street, and even uprooted the road surface.’
He said that funding is now needed for the repair works to the streets and culverts.
‘Funding is also needed for the businesses who have lost stock and have interior damage.’
Local businesswoman Catherine Wharton described the scene in Bantry.
‘We were all on high alert from midnight last night as the water started to rise at about 11.30pm. Within 30 minutes it was at its peak, having burst through the manholes.’
Catherine described the feeling on the night as one of utter devastation for all businesses.
‘2020,’ she said, ‘cannot possibly get any worse for us.’ Diarmaid Murphy, chairman of Bantry Business Association, said: ‘Monday night’s floods highlight the need to replace the culverts in Bantry. The problem cannot be ignored any longer.’