CLONAKILTY WAS LIKE Venice during the height of last night’s flooding, the town’s mayor has said.
Mayor Cionnaith O’Suilleabhain, who has held the position for just two weeks, spoke to TheJournal.ie this morning about the “devastation” wreaked on the small coastal town overnight, which can be seen in this video posted online.
The Mayor, who was a long-standing councillor before taking up his new role, said that two inches of rain fell in two hours last night, leading to a torrent of water flowing through the town centre.
With a high tide forecasted for 12pm, it will still be many hours before all of the flood water has moved out of the town.
Gardai are that advising diversions are in place for access around Clonakilty, with motorists advised to travel from the rugby club on to Shannonvale and then on to Fernhill in both directions, from Skibbereen to Clonakilty and from Bandon to Clonakilty.
“The important message I want to get out to people is that there is no access whatsoever to Clonakilty town centre - certainly until 5pm,” said the Mayor.
Mayor O’Suilleabhain, who has been out since 2am this morning, was first alerted by a councillor colleague who told him he thought the rain could lead to flooding.
I got a call from one of my colleagues on the council at about 1.45am this morning that he felt there was danger of flooding. I live half mile out of town. I went to meet him at the designated place outside the hotel in middle of town. I knew at the edge of town we had a problem. The main roundabout coming from the Cork side was flooding and I had to abandon my car.
They then knew they had to put a plan into action, and within a half hour there were three feet of water in the centre of the town after the river running through it burst its banks on the western side.
The town is devastated. There was a river going through the middle of town - it was like Venice. The water level was up to the wing mirrors of cars on the Main St - this was at 4 or 5am this morning. We have to block traffic [coming into and out of the town] unfortunately. All the places are trying to mop up and get stuff out of the street for dumping.
The best I could describe it as is it is almost like a tsunami. I had a walk out on the main street and it is heartbreaking and devastating.
All of the businesses and residential homes in the main thoroughfare of the town will be affected by the flood waters, he added, while around 150 cars are estimated to have been flooded.
“We are doing what we can,” said the mayor of the clean up.
The important thing I want to say is that two inches of rain fell in two hours. It was a natural phenomenon, it wasn’t to do with the tide.
Clonakilty locals have been pulling together to help those affected by the floods.
“There is great community spirit and people are helping out,” said the Mayor. The town clerk has been around since 2.30am this morning, he said, adding that all the town council workers and other council workers are there, as well as loads of volunteers and members of the Cork Civil Defence. Representatives from other towns have also offered their help.
For now, the focus is on doing what they can to clear up the damage and hope that the flood waters recede after high tide, as locals try to deal with the shock of what has happened.
One group that is doing its best to help out is the Clonakilty Favour Exchange, which is a network of 100 people. They have been in touch with the mayor, said one of the exchange’s founders, Bev Cotton, who became aware of the flooding early this morning.
“We are trying to get people organised to clean up,” he told TheJournal.ie. “It looks absolutely terrible.”
Photographs posted on the Clonakilty Favour Exchange‘s blog show feet of water against businesses and the local fire station. “We heard the rain in the night – it was extraordinary,” said Cotton.
We will do what we can - we will coordinate people who are willing to help and put people in touch with them. We will be in direct contact with the mayor.
Meanwhile, Douglas Village in the Cork City area was also badly affected when floods wreaked havoc in the main business area.
Douglas Village Shopping Centre, which is home to a new Tesco supermarket and a large number of locally-owned businesses, was completely flooded, with pictures showing that the force of the water pushed windows and doors in.
Local business KC & Sons & Sons, which has been open since the 1950s, posted photographs on its Facebook page of the flooding, which also affected well-known pubs Barry’s and O’Driscoll’s.
Cllr Laura McGonigle told TheJournal.ie that water is being pumped out of the village at the moment, and that most businesses are closed and will be closed for a number of days.
“There was major damage done,” she said. “I don’t think anyone thought it would be this bad. It is unfortunate that there are people whose homes and businesses are affected”.
She added that there is not a threat of contamination to the water supply, as occurred in 2009, and that the city’s pumping station had not been affected.