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Devastation in Crossmolina

Noel Moffatt surveys his bar
Noel Moffatt surveys the damage to his bar.

Devastation in Crossmolina

Anton McNulty

in Crossmolina

WALKING through the streets of Crossmolina on Monday morning, it was hard to imagine that a large section of the town was covered in up to three feet of water just 24 hours earlier. As quickly as the River Deel burst its banks in the early hours of Sunday morning, it receded in the day that followed, allowing residents to survey the damage.
The area of the town which took the initial brunt of the river surge was Chapel and Church streets. The houses along the bank of the river were the first to be hit as the fierce wind quickly pushed the water across the road and into people’s living rooms. Young and old were hastily evacuated from their homes on Sunday morning, the damage they left clear to see in the daylight hours of Monday morning. Ruined carpets and rugs were thrown out as householders did what they could to try and dry and clean out their homes.
Floods and natural disasters are often referred to as ‘acts of God’, but ironically, the home of one of His servants on earth, Fr Michael Reilly (right), was among those to be flooded. His sodden carpet and water-stained walls were testimony to the scale of damage. It will be two weeks before Fr O’Reilly will be able to move back into his home, but he said that while the community is dampened, its spirit will prevail.
“I saw people carrying bags of sand, putting them in front of doors, and they prevented the water going in. The community spirit was good and it saved quite a number of businesses in the town. I know I have a lot of damage done but at the same time there is a lot people worse off than me and there are some people out of business,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by local Pharmacist James Geraghty, who said if it was not for the local effort the damage would have been much greater.
“The community spirit was very impressive; a great feeling of unity more than anything else. It could have been a lot worse if we did not have the sandbags, that averted a real disaster. It was more the community response that was important though; from my perspective there should be better integration between the civil defence, fire brigade and the Council, because it was the local people who got the sandbags sorted when the floods arrived,” he said.
Having had time to reflect, the local community are left with a number of questions, mostly directed at the authorities. Many feel that not enough was done to prevent such a disaster and many householders who said they predicted such a disaster long ago are angry that no heed was taken and their homes are now left damaged.
However, 24 hours after businesses were submerged in water, the doors of many were open for business again. Coming up to Christmas many cannot afford to stay closed, while others want to go back to normality as quickly as possible, with the humming of dehumidifiers a backdrop to the opening and closing of cash registers.

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Seven years work threatened by seven-hour flood

Anton McNulty

THE sight of mattresses floating in a foot of water greeted Francis Brogan when he arrived at his furniture shop on Sunday morning, having heard the Deel river had burst its banks a few hours previously.
Francis, a native of Knockmore, could only look on in disbelief as seven years of hard work and investment was destroyed in a few hours of flooding. The River Deel, which flows 50 yards from the back of Francis’ FAB Carpet and Furniture store, burst its banks and flooded over 300 feet of his storeroom. In the process it caused thousands of euros worth of damage to carpets, vinyls and wood flooring, ordered as part of the Christmas and New Year stock.
As the water receded on Sunday afternoon, the full extent of the damage could be seen as rolls and rolls of carpets and rugs, which were saturated by the flood water, lay totally destroyed. Francis (right) told The Mayo News on Monday that he is unsure when the shop will re-open, but vowed that he will try to accommodate people who bought furniture for the Christmas.
“I am absolutely gutted, seven years trying to build it up and it is gone in one day. The water came in all of a shot and went out just as fast. This was all the Christmas stock and I’m hoping I will be able to look after the people up to Christmas. A lot of it is gone and I will see what I can do. I will wait for someone from the insurance company to come and assess the situation,” he explained solemnly.
The building in which Francis’ store is located was not built in 1989 when the last major flood hit Crossmolina, and many believed the area was safe from flooding. Sandbags were slow in getting to the store, but Francis believes that even if there were more sandbags, they would not have been able to stop the weight of the water getting in.

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“What we want now is action from the authorities and we never want to see a flood in this town again”

Anton McNulty

in Crossmolina

Businessmen who saw their premises damaged call for better preventative measures for the future

‘THIS cannot be allowed to happen again’ was the cry from the business community in Crossmolina who suffered an estimated €1 million worth of damage due to the flooding last Sunday morning.
There was anger among some members of the community who feel that after the last major flood in 1989, enough was not done to ensure a repeat occurrence never happened again. Many also feel the immediate response to the weekend flooding was inadequate, with local people having to get sand themselves for the sandbags needed to keep out the rising waters.
One of the worst-affected businessmen was publican Noel Moffatt, who also suffered flood damage in 1989. Up to a foot of water poured into his pub and, while it was not as severe as in 1989, he believes this flood will put the town back a couple of years.
“The local authorities in ‘89 were supposed to have done some work, yet we felt looking at the river over the last few years that there had been no maintenance, and that was the main problem this year. Some of the authorities have to be blamed; it would not have happened this time if the work was done properly after the last big flood in 1989.
“The town has been improving over the last few years and this has put us back a few years again. What we want now is action from the authorities and we never want to see a flood in this town again. We want the river cleaned up and maintained and a proper job done this time,” he said.
Noel explained that at midnight on Saturday there was still three feet between the river and the top of the bank and he did not feel there was any danger. It was not until he received a call from the fire brigade at about six o’clock in the morning that he became aware of the flooding. While there was damage to stock and to the electrics on the premises, on Monday Noel said he hoped to be open for business in the next couple of days.
One of the members of the Crossmolina Fire Brigade who was to the fore in the relief work was businessman Phil Munnelly, who owns a hardware store in the town. At 5.30am, while on duty at another call-out, Phil and his team got a call saying the the Deel had burst its banks and was flooding the town. His hardware business premises was flooded by the overflow and it destroyed his entire Christmas stock, causing a couple of thousand euros worth of damage.
He called for sandbags to be on standby in the future because time was wasted while people were trying to fill the sandbags as the town was flooding, he said.
“I lost all my Christmas stock - all my fairy lights and cables. It reminds me of 1989, it all came back to me, I could not sleep because of it. I worked all day Sunday because I basically wanted to open my door on Monday and get the show on the road again. You can’t just sit down at home, the problem won’t go away. You have to face it and knuckle down and keep working. I have invested in my Christmas stock and do I want to buy more stock now? I don’t know what I want yet, I am just getting my head around the whole thing.”

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Ballavary flood
Flooding on the N5 road at Ballyvary, caused by heavy rain over the weekend led to the road being closed for a time on Sunday.

Council will work with OPW to try and alleviate flood problems

Michael Duffy

MAYO County Council secretary, Mr John Condon, confirmed to The Mayo News on Monday that the Council will work in conjunction with the Office of Public Works (OPW) to try and avoid a recurrence of the weekend’s flooding in Crossmolina.
However, Mr Condon did warn that responsibility for riverway dredging and arterial drainage lies ‘entirely’ with the OPW.
“Of course we will sit down with the relevant bodies and discuss realistic solutions to the problems. We had 50 staff from the Council down in Crossmolina on Monday trying to cope with the severe problems that existed.
”Unfortunately, we have no responsibility in relation to dredging or drainage of rivers but one does have to consider that there were extreme meteorological conditions prevailing in the area and the combination of factors led to the flooding. The rainfall was bad, tides were high and winds were well in excess of 100km per hour. All this led to extreme conditions on the night,” stated the County Secretary.
Some locals had expressed concern that little was done by the Council or the OPW since 1989 to prevent a repeat of the severe flooding which had taken place but Mr Condon rejected this.
“Seventeen years is a long time without any serious flooding in the area and I do know that the OPW have spent a lot of money in this county in the last number of years. However, we do have a lot of river-ways all over the county.”
Mr Condon said that both the local community effort and the work of the 50 employees of the Council had to be complimented.
“I would like to compliment all the local community volunteers who helped during the emergency and I would like thank our own staff and the Fire Service. We are committed to solving the problems of flooding and we will look at realistic solutions with the OPW,” added Mr Condon.
Since September 2004 the Government confirmed that the Office of Public Works, as the State’s lead agency in flooding, has been tasked with delivering an integrated multi-faceted programme aimed at minimising future flood risk and impact.
Documents released from the OPW have stated that ‘floods are a natural and inevitable part of life in Ireland’.
“While we cannot prevent the climatic causes of flooding, we can take measures to prepare for it and reduce the resulting damage and hardship,” state the OPW.
Just last week at the National Civil Defence Educational and Training Conference in Castlebar, Mr Peter Hynes, Director of Services with Mayo County Council, said during a presentation on the Council restoration work carried out after the Pullathomas landslides, that the Government should considering putting an Emergency Fund in place to deal with natural disasters such as landslides and flooding.
“The suggestion is that National Government would set aside a fund of perhaps €10 to €15 million, which could be called on for incidents like a landslide. The Red Cross had to go and get a special allocation after the landslides and seek humanitarian aid for loss of lifestock, life of earnings, damage to houses etc. It seems to us in the Council that if this sort of thing is going to happen on a relatively regular basis because of climactical changes then an emergency fund makes sense,” added Mr Hynes.
Deputy John Carty stated on Monday he is to approach both the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, and the Minister responsible for the Office of Public Works, Tom Parlon, with a view to putting a Hardship Fund in place.
“This fund could be administered by the Red Cross, Social Welfare Services and through Mayo County Council and the Council have given me the go-ahead to try and get the funding from Central Government,” added Deputy Carty.
Other areas of the county were still experiencing problems late on Monday night with severe flooding at Ballyvary and also between The Neale and Cross and Kilmaine and Shrule.
Mechanical pumps were to be installed close to Kilmaine in recent days to help clear the road and Cllr Patsy O’Brien said he hopes the pumps could be left at the area to help with any other flooding in this problem area over the next few weeks.

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When Mayo recorded its worst ever floods

Claire Egan

SEVENTEEN YEARS ago storms and floods engulfed the north and west Mayo regions in what were then described as ‘the worst floods since 1969’. The damage caused by the high winds and driving rain on that occasion was far more extensive and widespread than this weekend’s damage, though Crossmolina was one of the areas worst-hit back then also.
Over the course of the last weekend in October, 1989, severe flooding due to winds of up to 80mph wreaked havoc in numerous towns around the county. Minor bridges, power cables, electricity poles, as well as hundreds of homes and business premises, suffered the effects of 36 hours of relentlessly-pounding rain and high winds.
Emergency services worked non-stop to ease flooding in areas worst affected. The river Deel in Crossmolina burst its banks engulfing the town in a deluge, and boats were deployed to rescue people from their homes. Ballina suffered the same fate with the River Moy following suit and boats were employed there too, in a dramatic rescue operation.
A landslide at Belderring on the Ballycastle to Glenamoy road caused the road to close as the majority of roadways in the north Mayo region were deemed unsafe and impassable.
In Kilmeena, a massive landslide swallowed up the farm of Michael Mulchrone, a local agricultural contractor. Tons of brown earthy sludge smothered the outhouses and machinery, leaving a heart-wrenching scene of destruction. Fitzgerald’s pub in Buckfield, Kilmeena suffered the same fate, as a landslide crashed in through the rear windows of the premises.
The picturesque town of Westport was overcome with floods as the Carrowbeg River rose to its highest levels ever. Water burst up through the floor of the local post office, while several homes and businesses in the North Mall area were also destroyed.
The Rosbeg area of Westport, along with The Fairgreen and the Golf Course Road, were also badly-affected,while Louisburgh, Achill and Newport were damaged by widespread flooding.
At the time, Mayo’s Padraig Flynn was Minister for the Environment and he visited Crossmolina and the surrounding areas of north Mayo to inspect the flood damage, which was estimated at half a million pounds.
Newport councillor, Frank Chambers said then that, in light of the damage, the County Council should look into setting up a special disaster fund for remedial work.