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"No one's coming to the rescue": Dublin City Council meets over flooding

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn says the Dept of Environment and DCC should help people to better prepare themselves for future weather-induced emergencies.

Martin Murphy of Kilmainham surveys the damage on 25 October.
Martin Murphy of Kilmainham surveys the damage on 25 October.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL is holding its first full meeting this evening since the severe flooding which struck parts of Dublin city and the eastern region late last month.

Two people lost their lives in the flooding: Garda Ciarán Jones was trying to help protect people during the flooding when the waters swept him into a river near Blessington Co Wicklow, and nurse Celia Ferrer de Jesus who died when her basement flat in Dublin.

The flooding also caused serious travel disruption and damaged homes and businesses. Insurers have estimated that the claims arising from damage caused in the flooding could hit €100 million. A major emergency plan involving the fire brigade and gardaí was put into action on the evening of the flooding.

Around 900 emergency calls for assistance were made in the Dublin area in the 24 hours after midday on Monday 24 October, with most calls involving people who were trapped in cars, carparks or buildings.

DCC flood report

An interim report by the Assistant City Manager Seamus Lyons and the Executive Manager of Engineering Tom Leahy said that earlier investigations into flood risks in Dublin warned of the “emerging threat of pluvial flooding” (rain caused by high-intensity rain which exceeds draining capacity).

“This intense rain comes with little warning and weather forecasting cannot identify the time or location of flooding in advance,” the interim report said.

It also said that although Met Éireann had issued a number of weather warnings ahead of and during the heavy rainfall that Monday, the quantity of rain which fell “considerably exceeded this forecast”.

Although 1,000 sandbags were made available to the public at Bath Avenue in Sandymount at around 9pm on Monday evening, the report said that DCC staff experienced “considerable delays” in their deliveries due to impassable roads and heavy traffic.

It also said some 4,000 sandbags were distributed from a storage depot in Cabra. More sandbags were distributed in the Kincora area upon residents’ requests.

‘Delay’ in declaring emergency

Speaking to ahead of this evening’s meeting, Labour Councillor Oisín Quinn said that he expected the focus of tonight’s criticism to fall on the delay in declaring the flooding an emergency on 24 October.

“Why wasn’t it earlier?” he asked. “The emergency plan encompasses a group of people…it’s a collaborative body, but to my mind, I think 8.15pm was too late [to announce an emergency].”

He said that containers of sandbags in Sandymount should have been opened much earlier in the day and the bags distributed to homeowners so they could prevent the water from flooding in.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn agreed, saying: “It was very obvious from about 1 o’clock that this rain was not going to abate.”

Flynn told this evening that while he accepted austerity measures and the severity of the weather were important factors in the scale of the situation, they were not “as devastating as the lack of a significant area of response”.

The councillor said that politicians have been warned over the past ten years by a range of organisations that severe weather events could cause serious problems and they should do more to warn and prepare people.

“While there’s a certain amount of responsibility among people who cemented over their gardens and left the water nowhere to go, bear in mind the council knew about this at the time and it didn’t ban them from doing that.”

He said he believes local people should prepare themselves for future problems because “no one is coming to the rescue here”.

“My suggestion to the public is to get organised,” he said, adding that he believes the Department of the Environment and Dublin City Council should help communities to prepare and equip themselves for future weather problems.

During the meeting, councillors recalled scenes from across the affected areas on the night of the floods. Independent Cieran Perry said that he received a text message to inform him that the council has begun its response at 8pm – while he was already “standing waist-high in freezing and contaminated water” attempting to get sandbags to residents.

Perry said that this was unaccepatbly late – particularly considering the statement by Executive Manager of Dublin City Council Engineering Department Tom Leahy, which indicated that the situation was known to be serious from about 5pm that night.

Leahy has noted that there was “exceptionally intense rain” on the night in question, and said that Dublin City Council had made huge investments in sustainable draining options, which continued to be explored.

Councillors also raised concerns about the floodgates by Landsdowne Road, which failed to close on the night.

Read more: So what DID cause Monday’s floods? >

In photos: Dublin under water after torrential rainfall >

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