THE town of Clonakilty woke up to a scene of devastation today (Thursday) following the worst flooding in living memory overnight.
Virtually every business from the Western Road to Faxbridge has suffered significant flooding following a torrential downpour in the early hours of the morning which simply overwhelmed the town’s drainage system.
According to town mayor Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin up to two inches of rain fell on the town in just two hours, the equivalent of two months normal rainfall at this time of year.
The worst of the rain began falling at around 2am and by 3am it was clear that the town was facing a serious flood threat.
Patrick Murphy, Station Officer from Clonakilty Fire Station told West Cork Times, “We were called at about 2.30am to the Bushmount home for elderly people where the roof was leaking.
“We then came back down to the town then and we have been here ever since.”
Mr Murphy said that one man fell into the river near the Clonakilty Hotel and had to be rescued and a number of people were also rescued from basement flats around the town.
“Our priority was people’s safety and everyone got out safely,” he said, “After that there was nothing we could do until the water started to recede.”
Mr Murphy said that the damage caused was “devastating for the people of Clonakilty”.
“Every shop owner and residence from the Western Road down to Faxbridge and all the adjoining streets have been flooded,” he said.
According to Mayor Ó Súilleabháin the River Farla burst its banks sometime around 2am in the vicinity of Dunnes Stores.
He was called to town by a colleague and arrived at around 2.30am.
“The speed at which it rose was absolutely frightening, the river literally went down through the main streets of the town, it was like Venice.”
Up to 15 council workers were on the scene by 3am as frantic efforts got underway to avert disaster but by then it was too late.
The deluge was so great that cars were spotted floating down Kent Street as several feet of water rushed through the town.
Attempts were made to dam the river upstream to reduce the flow of water but to no avail.
Dina O’Donovan from O’Donovan’s Hotel was watching the hotel’s rear car park at around 2am as the deluge worsened.
“I’ve never seen anything as bad as this ever. We’ve seen the back car park flood maybe, other parts of the town but we’ve always escaped and been bone dry.
“I decided I would stay up and keep an eye on the levels of the river.
“I had to get a few guests out of bed to move their cars and I could see the level rising, I made a few phone calls to people on the street and a few people were able to lift a bit of stock in the shops.
“It all happened so fast, suddenly it was coming in the front door and it was up to four or five inches within 15 minutes,” she said.
“All our carpets are ruined, but with the help of locals who have been very good to us we’ve managed to get those all out onto the street now, so we are starting to dry up a little bit.
“It will take us a few weeks to get back on track but we are hoping we will be actually serving meals this evening. We are just disinfecting the kitchen now and checking stock.
“The hotel is booked out tonight if everyone arrives and we have a cycle tour coming through.”
Dina said that the flood couldn’t have happened at a worse time, “People are penny pinching as it is, we are all fighting to stay in business.
“This will probably knock a lot of people back for six, it will knock us back but we are a family of fighters,” she said.
As the waters recede, the massive cleanup operation now begins.
According to Mayor Ó Súilleabháin it will be some time before the cost of the disaster is known.
“It wasn’t a tidal issue – tide was out, most fair minded people will accept that this is just a freak of nature,” he said.
“If the river didn’t burst its banks the drainage system would probably have worked fine because the bay was empty.
“There is devastation on Pearse Street, all these shops were trying to survive three or four days ago and it was tough enough, now it’s extremely difficult.
“The physical clean up is going to take weeks, there were150 parked cars damaged alone, that’s just one figure I’ve heard. The cost to put things right will be enormous.”Fine Gael county councillor John O’Sullivan said that the effects would be devastating on the town.
“It’s absolutely devastating, undoubtedly the worst that has hit the town. My fears and thoughts are with the businesses and house owners that have been flooded,
“It ‘s just a fiasco here. All I can say is it’s devastating at this stage.”