JUST a few short weeks after the last devastating storm, the people of West Cork are once more counting the cost of damage to their businesses and homes.
Towns throughout West Cork – but particularly Bandon and Skibbereen – are being systematically destroyed by floodwaters; roads all over the county are so badly damaged they look as if they have been mined, and the emergency services have been called upon so often that they are starting to resemble a special elite unit.
It’s become a bit like war reporting with battle-weary civilians asking if anyone can help them out of their misery. The level of misery that comes from having one’s home or business repeatedly flooded could be heard in the voice of Bandon businesswoman, Josephine Whelehan who, for the second time this month, has been battling the floodwaters.
In a snatched conversation at mid-day on Wednesday she said: ‘Bandon is just totally destroyed at the moment. It is much worse than three weeks ago. The shopping centre is closed. A lot of the Main Street is under water. The river is really, really high, and its about to get higher. It’s a terrible worry at the moment. It is the worst I’ve seen.’
In Skibbereen, Cathal O’Donovan reported a night of Emergency Response System meetings. The first high-level meeting involving Council staff, the Civil Defence, the Fire Brigade and the Skibbereen Floods Committee took place at 9pm, but they were followed in quick succession with another at midnight, 2am, 5am, 7.30am, 9am and the final meeting at 11.30am.
‘By working together,’ Cathal O’Donovan, who is the secretary of the Skibbereen Floods Committee, said: ‘we were able to have a very proactive response, which proved to be much more successful than the reactive response we might have had 15 years ago.’
Although no two floods are the same, Mr O’Donovan said the co-ordinated response saved many houses from flooding. Two businesses, CH Marine and the rear of Thornhill’s Hardware store, as well as one house in Townshend Street, were flooded, but more than 30 houses that had water ‘lipping’ at the door were saved.
In Bandon, the final flood warning came at 11pm when the community was put on ‘red alert’ – a phrase now used to signify that the town will definitely flood. At 6.30am, the water came onto the streets and exceeded the flood levels of December 5th.
An estimated 40 businesses were hit early in the day and any vantage point in the town showed streets turning to muddy rivers, and locals dressed in all-weather gear helping businesspeople lift stock from their floors – yet again.
Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) – who like many others pulled an all-nighter – spoke with pride about the people’s own response saying: ‘It has brought out a great can-do attitude in Bandon. The community spirit has certainly strengthened in Bandon over the last month. People have shown great resilience, but let’s face it, they need it.’