A COUNTRY town was gripped by panic as it faced the prospect of its second devastating flood in just two years this weekend.
Units form Cork County Fire Department were called in to pump water from the Bridewell River in Bandon, west Cork to avoid a repeat of the disastrous floods of 2010 which saw dozens of businesses completely destroyed by floodwater.
Panic began to set in on Saturday evening as the water level in the Bridewell River began to rise rapidly after a prolonged spell of heavy rain.
Deputy Mayor Sean O’Donovan whose own pub, the Plunkett Inn was flooded last year said that emergency services were quickly on the scene.
“The Bridewell is a tributary of the main Bandon River, as soon as the water reaches up to the bridge yow know you are in trouble. The fire brigade were called and units also came from Clonakilty to help. They were pumping water out of the Bridewell and into the Bandon River from about 10pm until after four in the morning, just to keep the Bridewell flowing,” he said.
Parts of Bridge Street and Brady’s Lane in the town began to flood, but fire crews managed to keep the Bridewell flowing in the town centre avoiding a repeat of last year’s disaster; the Bandon River itself also burst its banks, flooding the Main N71 road on the Inishannon side of the town. The road was closed until early on Sunday afternoon as a result.
The Bandon River rose 2 metres throughout the course of the day and water levels peeked at 2.99 metres at 1.45am. The river finally began to subside at 3am.
Following the flooding of November 2010 a flood warning system has been put in place in the town, sending text alerts to subscribers when water levels become dangerous.
Sinn Féin councillor Rachel McCarthy said that this time around, people would not take any chances.
“Every time it rains there is real fear now, people know just how much damage it can cause. There are still some businesses that haven’t recovered from the last floods and lots of people now can’t get insurance”.
According to Cllr McCarthy, shopkeepers had their ground floors cleared of stock within minutes when it became clear that flooding was imminent.
“It was amazing, there was a huge amount of activity and the shops were cleared very fast. I think a lot of people are set up now so they can just clear the shelves as fast as possible following what happened last time”.
The main priority for the town now is a new main drainage system to take water away from the streets more quickly.
Mr O’Donovan said that the current system is antiquated and cannot cope with the demands now being placed upon it.
“This needs to be done as a matter of urgency,” he said, “when flooding does occur we are also getting sewage coming up with the water as well which is obviously very dangerous”.
The town council is lobbying the Department of Environment for funding to begin work on the scheme and local Fianna Fáil TD Christy O’Sullivan is due meet with Environment Minister John Gormley on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
Plans are also being drawn up for a major flood relief scheme for the town. A public consultation on the proposals will be held at Bandon Town Hall on Tuesday, January 25th from 3pm to 8pm.
“It was unreal how quickly the water level rose, there was a major panic,” said Cllr O’Donovan, “people were terrified that we were going to see a repeat of the disaster. This time we avoided it in part at least because we were better prepared, but it was very close”.
Labour councillor Gearóid Buckley added, “The early earning system was of great assistance, it highlighted potential flooding as early as Saturday morning. However prevention is better than watching on in fear, it is now critical that Bandon’s €9.6 million flood scheme and main drainage scheme is implemented without delay”.