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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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A burst Irish Water pipe leaves family with just one bedroom to call home this Christmas

A large water mains burst at Bengal Terrace flooded 11 homes on 15 July in Limerick.

“WE’VE HAD TO tell our daughter that Santa can’t come to our house.”

In the early hours of the morning on Saturday 15 July, a large water main burst at Bengal Terrace in the south-east of Limerick city.

The flooding was so severe that a number of families were forced into emergency accommodation for three weeks, while others remained living in the upstairs of their damaged homes.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Five months later – some families are still being forced to eat, sleep and socialise in their bedrooms, as they struggle to pay for renovations after being told that they would not be eligible for compensation.

Local resident Colm McCarthy, who lives with his wife and two-year-old daughter, was forced to move into emergency accommodation after his hallway, downstairs bathroom, sitting room and kitchen flooded after the water main burst.

Limerick Council provided three nights of emergency accommodation for the family. After that, Irish Water paid for the McCarthy family to stay in a holiday home for three weeks.

From there, McCarthy told TheJournal.ie that he has received no accommodation or financial support from either Limerick County Council, Irish Water or the Department of Housing.

“The council did nothing except for the emergency accommodation. Irish Water told us we were on our own,” McCarthy told TheJournal.ie. 

“To be honest with you, the council was only there once the cameras were there and the media was floating about.”

Irish Water informed the family that because they have house insurance they are not eligible for compensation. However, the process of insurance funding is taking so long that the family are being left living in derelict conditions for Christmas.

Two weeks after the flood, an assessor from McCarthy’s insurance company came to view the damage. From there, they were informed that it would take up to eight weeks to determine exactly what building work needed to take place.

Once the assessor was finished his assessments, he informed the McCarthys that it would take another month to process the documents before they could secure funding.

Seven weeks went by and McCarthy finally contacted the company only to be informed that they never sent his files off to be processed. The family only received insurance funding in early October.

20170724_071134 The aftermath of the flooding at the McCarthy household Source: Colm McCarthy

So far, the sitting room is the only area of the house where renovations have begun.

“We can go into the kitchen but we don’t know how safe it is to use. The fridge was working and that it stopped after three or four weeks, it had to have been the flood damage. The washing machine is gone too,” McCarthy said

“We end up having to eat our dinner upstairs. We’re still using microwavable dinners,” he said.

McCarthy told TheJournal.ie that the situation has put a significant strain on his life at home.

“We have a two-year-old. I worked on a golf course construction site for six months and I slept on an air mattress and I didn’t give a toss, but when you have a baby involved it’s a whole other ballgame,” McCarthy said.

I go to work just to get out of my house, to get out of the stress. Then, I go back home and I’m back in it.

Christmas

McCarthy said that it’s devastating that the situation has not been resolved before Christmas. The family’s contractors have informed them that the kitchen simply won’t be renovated before Christmas.

McCarthy told TheJournal.ie that this year is the first that their daughter really understands the meaning of Christmas and that it should have been a special one spent at home.

“She actually understands who Santa is now. This is the first proper Christmas we would have had with her where she understands what’s going on,” McCarthy told TheJournal.ie. 

“We’ve had to tell her that Santa can’t come to our house and that he’s coming to nana and grandad’s house instead,” he said.

The child knows. She keeps saying our house is flooded. She’s more than aware of what’s going on.

McCarthy criticised Irish Water for leaving them in this sort of situation. He said that the company is using the fact that they have house insurance “as a scapegoat”.

Irish Water’s reaction

TheJournal.ie contacted Irish Water to discuss McCarthy’s situation.

In a statement, it said that the company did everything it could to support the residents affected in the aftermath of the incident, “including arranging and paying for alternative accommodation for an agreed period of time”.

There had been no history of bursts on this section of pipe and Irish Water was not carrying out any work in the area at the time.
We cannot comment on any individual cases but in general residents should refer to their insurance companies as they are best placed to advise in relation to any claims relating to property damage.

“Irish Water again apologises to the residents for the distress caused by this unforeseeable event.”

20170715_152128 The 14-inch asbestos cement water main burst in half on Bengal Terrace Source: Colm McCarthy

McCarthy told TheJournal.ie that he has repeatedly contacted the Department of Housing to make it aware of his situation, but his efforts of contact have come to no avail.

“I’ve had emails back from Minister Eoghan Murphy’s secretary to say he’s aware of what’s going on and he’s going to get back to me… but I haven’t heard anything from him,” McCarthy said.

The Department of Housing told TheJournal.ie that “there is no provision in this Department’s budget to offer assistance in instances like this”.

McCarthy said that Senator Maria Byrne has been the only government representative to reach out to the families of Bengal Terrace.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Byrne said: “Irish Water was forced into helping these residents. It’s saying that because the pipe never burst before it won’t be taking responsibility. It does have to take responsibility because it’s an Irish Water pipe.

“These are very old houses and there was huge damage, something needs to be done about it.”

Ending his discussion with TheJournal.ie, McCarthy said: “It’s ridiculous. It was only when I went through this situation that I understood just what’s it’s like.

“I grew up on the terrace. I’ve lived here for 26 years and the whole mood of the place has changed because of this.”

Read: Families forced to leave homes after burst pipe causes flooding, sinkhole

More: Families evacuated in Laois as flooding spreads across the county

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