County CE takes aim at ‘uninformed observers’
Cork County Council was “as prepared as any agency could possibly have been” ahead of last week’s devastating flooding, the council’s Chief Executive has claimed.
Severe flooding caused by Storm Babet dominated proceedings at Cork County Council on Monday where Chief Executive Valeria O’Sullivan quashed any suggestion that the council had failed to take proper precautions ahead of the event.
Directing her remarks towards “anyone who has commented inaccurately in the media”, Ms O’Sullivan stated for the record that prior to any rainfall, on foot of a Status Orange rain warning, drains and gullies at known flooding hotspots in the county were all checked.
Focusing on Midleton, one of the worst hit parts of the county, she said all drains and gullies were checked and cleared two weeks previously as part of the council's routine drainage maintenance programme.
She said: “The fact is that when river's reach capacity, the waters appear up through the drains and gullies regardless of how clear they were before a flood event.”
Last Wednesday afternoon, a period of intense rainfall left Midleton town centre under more than a metre of water in places after the Owenacurra River burst its banks.
Close to 200 homes and businesses were flooded in the space of approximately eight minutes. It is feared that some of the affected businesses may never reopen.
“What happened in Midleton was way beyond the capacity of the town's surface water drainage system,” continued Ms O’Sullivan.
“A casual and uninformed observer may assume that the drains aren't taking water and must be blocked. This is an incorrect assumption.
“For those uninformed observers to then inform the press that the council had not done its job is also factually incorrect. Today, I am rejecting all such commentary.” she
Flood relief scheme
Following the chief executive’s address, elected members heaped praise on council workers and the emergency services for their efforts in responding to the flooding.
However, questions were asked regarding Midleton’s long-promised flood relief scheme which Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD has now said is ready to go to planning during a visit to the town last Friday.
Local Cllr Ann Marie Ahern (FF), whose business was severely damaged in the flooding, slammed the minister for what she described as a “blasé and excusatory” approach to the crisis.
Cllr Ahern said she attended a meeting with Minister Ryan on Friday but was later excluded from a separate meeting between the minister and Cork County Council.
“I sat in meetings in 2016 with the then Government, the OPW, and indeed Cork County Council.
“We were promised a flood relief scheme within five years,” said Cllr Ahern.
The Fianna Fáil representative pointed out that not only has the scheme not materialised, but interim measures identified have not been implemented, measures she felt could have saved homes and businesses last week.
"All I will say is he's an absolute disgrace and he needs to reconsider his position, his behaviour was disgusting to the council and the people of East Cork for the exclusion of any public representative from that meeting,” said Cllr Ahern.
East Cork Cllr Michael Hegarty (FG) described the days surrounding last week’s flooding as “the worst in my political life” and said he feels Met Éireann have “a lot to answer for”.
“This should have been a red alert, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” he said.
In a statement, Met Éireann said its nearest rainfall station to Midleton, which is 10km away in Ballincurrig, recorded 70.4mm of rainfall between 6am on Tuesday 17 October and 1pm on Wednesday 18 October.
Ireland's national meteorological service said this amount of rain falls into the orange level rainfall category (50-80mm in 24 hours) and as such was covered by the overall orange weather warning issued for county Cork.
“The flooding that occurred in Midleton and surrounding areas was due to a combination of factors including saturated soils, extremely heavy rain in a short period of time, and tidal effects, which can cause river levels to rise even further,” the statement read.