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Flooding havoc in south Mayo

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Raising Road
REMEDIAL ACTION on the N84, near Kilmaine.

Flooding havoc in south Mayo

Claire Egan

THE RECENT flooding in south Mayo has wreaked havoc in the town of Ballinrobe and the neighbouring villages of Hollymount, The Neale and Cross, leaving homes and farmland flooded and roadways impassable.
Last Thursday, senior engineering officials with Mayo County Council visited the areas to assess the situation, and a decision was taken to close the Ballinrobe to The Neale road until after Christmas, with remedial work due to be carried out on the route once flood waters subside.
The N84 roadway - known locally as the Ballinrobe to Kilmaine road - will be kept open, although it too was closed for a time last Wednesday evening, and Council engineering contractors have been working to raise the level of the road.
“The main objective at present is to keep the N84 open. We will be putting in large amounts of landfill and gravel to raise up the road. At present there is a huge amount of water on it and only tractors and jeeps are able to drive through it safely. Cars can pass through but with greater difficulty,” said Mr Patsy Burke, Senior Engineer with Mayo County Council last Thursday.
The Council was also to increase the amount of signage in flooded areas to warn oncoming traffic. Heavy goods vehicles, tractors and jeeps travelling through the flood waters were also urged to proceed with great caution and to take note of the warning signs.
“We would ask bigger vehicles when travelling through the badly flooded areas to try and not hit the warning signs, as reports have come in that cars are driving into flooded areas completely unaware due to the signs being hit,” said Mr Burke.
For the past week, lengthy detours have been the order of the day with work and school routes disrupted by the flooding. Those who regularly travel along The Neale road to work in Galway city have, in some cases, had an extra hour added to their journey in order to get to work.
South Mayo has been prone to flooding in the past, due to low-lying land and the presence of turloughs or ‘disappearing lakes’, however, the current flooding has been described as the worst in recent history.
In the past week alone there has been over 69.5 millimetres of rain in the Mayo region, according to the Met Éireann meteorological database.

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Bushfield flooding
COPING Eileen Connolly and her son Stephen pictured outside thier flooded home in Bushfield Hollymount.

“At the moment when we look out our window it is like looking out on a lake - except we are in it”

Claire Egan

A FAMILY in the small rural village of Hollymount have described the destruction wreaked by last week’s flooding as an ‘absolute nightmare’.
The Connolly family of Bushfield, Hollymount, have seen their 100-year-old two-storey farmhouse almost completely destroyed by torrential flooding, as a result of heavy downpours in the past week. Eileen Connolly explained to The Mayo News that, while there has been local flooding and road closures on a regular basis in the past few years, this is the first time the family home has ever been effected.
“Our house is in off the road so we thought we were safe enough, but due to the bad weather and non-stop rain the water has come up as far as the front door and poured into the downstairs part of the house. It is an absolute nightmare,” said Eileen.
The house was recently renovated, but thousands of euros worth of damage has been caused in the past week. The family are currently confined to the upstairs part of their home and use waders to get in and out of their house each day.
“The water is actually seeping up through the floor, as well as coming in the front door. The foundations of the house are now completely saturated. We have wooden floors in some rooms in the house and they are now destroyed,” said Eileen.
Sandbags have been used in an effort to stem the tide of the the flood waters - but to no avail.
“At the moment when we look out our window it is like looking out on a lake - except we are in it. We are standing in about a foot or more of water in the downstairs part of the house,” said Eileen.
The family have spent the last number of days bailing water out of the family home without success.
“We just don’t know what will happen. We are completely at the mercy of the elements and don’t know when the flooding will subside. I suppose we just have to try and cope, but it is absolutely awful,” said Eileen.

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Lake levels cause concern in Crossmolina

Anton McNulty

FEAR of the River Deel bursting its banks again, just two weeks after it flooded Crossmolina, is very real this week for residents and business people in the north Mayo town, as water levels in nearby Lough Conn continue to rise.
Locals in the town say they have not seen the lake so high in a long time and there is a fear if there is another torrential downpour the river will back up and flood the town again. When the Deel broke its banks two weeks ago, it caused over €1 million worth of damage to property and businesses.
One of the businessmen to be affected by the flood was Enda Hiney, who runs a supermarket and pub in the town. He told The Mayo News that while the town was busy trying to get ready for Christmas, it was still ‘in a high danger zone’ and every time the river starts to rise there is a worry about whether it will flood the town.
“Last Thursday, there was a real danger of it coming out and lucky enough, for some reason, the levels dropped even though it was raining.
“It rose quite an amount at about one o’clock and we had put down a new carpet and we thought we would have to take it up again. Lucky enough, in the afternoon it turned and the water level dropped.
“The lake is so high, I never saw it as high, and it must be at a record height. If the lake cannot take it the river will back up if we had more high levels of rain, we are still in high danger zone,” he said.
In the New Year, a public meeting between the town’s residents and County Council officials is to be organised to ascertain what measures can be taken to minimise the threat of flooding in the future. Many local people believe there is a build-up of silt on the river bed and called for the OPW to dredge the river down to the lake.

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Postman Sean Joyce
NO WAY THROUGH Postman Sean Joyce, outside his house.

Family wage 20-year campaign for drainage

Claire Egan

A KILMAINE family’s requests to Mayo County Council for a simple drainage scheme at a local turlough have finally been acceded to ­– twenty years after the issue was brought to the Council’s attention.
The Joyce family from Ballinacarra, Kilmaine have seen their land flooded on an annual basis, due to the overflow from a turlough at Thomastown. Despite first requesting a drainage system out of the Thomastown turlough in 1986, Mayo County Council have only recently installed a pumping device from the turlough into the Lough Corrib drain.
The problem originates with the Thomastown turlough which overflows across the N84 Ballinrobe to Galway road, into the Collisduff area, before travelling to the Clyard region and subsequently flooding the Ballinacarra area where the Joyce family live.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Mr Sean Joyce outlined that the family home is situated over two-and-a-half miles from the site of the original problem. However, as there is no drainage system from the Thomastown turlough, it overflows, saturating the surrounding areas.
“At present the water is up around the family house and is only ten feet from the gable of my house. The garden is covered in water. It has been happening on an annual basis for over 20 years. We have been campaigning for a solution to this problem for over two decades now, but to no avail. We asked for a simple drain to be made out of the turlough to deal with the issue but that request was refused,” said Mr Joyce on Monday.
Mr Joyce requested that Mayo County Council insert a drain to deal with the overflow problem, but despite persistent campaigning, their requests met with little success.
Mayo County Council Engineer, Mr Patsy Bourke, outlined that although they raised the issue of a drainage scheme for the Thomastown turlough with the Office of Public Works it was refused on the basis of environmental concerns. The OPW said that the ecology of the local turlough lake would be damaged if a drainage system was implemented.
In Feburary 2005 Mayo County Council recommended that a system of pumps be installed to alleviate the flood waters which engulf the Collisduff, Clyard and Ballinacarra areas. However, pumps have only recently been installed on the Thomastown turlough – a year-and-a-half after the recommendation.
“The pump is working at the Thomastown turlough and is draining off the water. We had to go to great lengths to get this measure implemented and the Joyce family have had to endure annual flooding and the threat that their home would be flooded for the past 20 years,” said local councillor Mr Patsy O’ Brien.
Mr Patsy Bourke outlined that the pumping measure may not be a long-term solution, but he is hopeful that for the interim it will help to reduce the volume of water which is flooding the surrounding areas. He added that at present it is difficult to fully assess the issue until flood waters subside, but that the system appears to be making an impact.

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Boat used in Neale rescue operation

Claire Egan

A DRAMATIC rescue operation involving the Civil Defence, Mayo County Council, Ballinrobe Council officials and local people saw a family from The Neale lifted to safety by boat last Thursday evening.
At approximately 4pm that evening the Green family, who moved to the south Mayo village over six years ago, became alarmed by the rising flood waters around them. While there had been significant flooding in the previous days, it had been confined mainly to the roadways and surrounding areas of farmland, and the Green family perceived no direct threat to their two-sttorey house.
Late Thursday evening, however, after prolonged and heavy rainfall, the rising flood waters burst into the downstairs part of the family home and the adjacent garage. All three family members - a husband and wife and their 12-year-old son - were trapped inside and were forced to take refuge in the upstairs part of their home until emergency services arrived.
Local council engineers who initially attempted to deploy heavy machinery to drive through the flood waters were unable to do so. The Civil Defence Unit then used a boat to travel through over 100 metres to the front door of the family home, from where all three were taken to safety. None of the family were injured in the episode.
At present the family home is surrounded by water and the downstairs area and garage are completely destroyed by flooding.
Local councillor, Damien Ryan, complimented the Civil Defence Unit for their swift action and outlined that the Office of Public Works need to take action.
“This is no longer a roads issue; homes and businesses are being destroyed by the flooding. It has not subsided and there is a huge number of areas affected. I am calling on the OPW to come down here and assess the situation. They have been far too quiet and they must now take action and do something,” said Mr Ryan.
When contacted by The Mayo News, the OPW were unavailable for comment.

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Almost land-flood in South Mayo
Canoes, jeeps and water skis used to brave floods

Claire Egan


LOCALS IN the Crevagh area of The Neale were employing every means possible last week to battle against the flood waters which engulfed the region.
Tractors, jeeps, water skis and even canoes were taken to the water-logged route ways as locals tried to maintain some semblance of normality in the face of such difficult conditions.
“The huge problem is access. Thankfully no houses have been flooded down here at the moment, but it is impossible to get in and out of the area. Most people have moved their cars into Kilmaine and are getting lifts from people with tractors and jeeps to get to their cars and then head to work,” said local man Mr Alan Kelly.
Locals have recounted how difficult is has been to get to and from work and also to bring children to school. In one instance a parent had to take a 24-mile detour to bring a child to school one mile away.
“The roads which meet at the Neale crossroads are in an awful state and there is about four foot, two foot and a foot of water, respectively, flooding the roads,” said Mr Kelly.
Flooding in the area has been reported as an ongoing concern down through the years; however, the current levels are unprecedented.
The geographic make-up of the area, with a large amount of turlough lakes in low-lying land, has been cited as a contributory factor along with the heavy rainfall.