'This could have been prevented': Anger at lack of progress on defences as Cork city floods

'This could have been prevented': Anger at lack of progress on defences as Cork city floods

The civil defence working with shop owners on Winthrop Street in Cork after early morning flooding. Picture Dan Linehan

UPDATED 2.45PM

REPORTING BY ROISIN BURKE

“Enough is enough” in terms of the flood relief scheme that is currently in a judicial review, due to an objection according to Minister for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief Patrick O’Donovan Minister O’Donovan was in Cork on Tuesday following heavy flooding in the city centre.

Speaking in Cork, the Minister said the climate is changing faster than the process that the Government can deliver the scheme and he appealed to objectors to consider withdrawing their objection.

“Allow us in partnership to move forward with the people of Cork to delivering a good scheme for the people of Cork to protect them,” Minister O’Donovan said.

“People are angry, they are right to be angry, this scheme should be half-built and the remainder underway, so I am pleading with them to pull back and engage in a manner that allows this scheme to be delivered.

“It has been modified, it is a better scheme, it is more aesthetic, we recognise all that, the OPW is not perfect, we have taken an awful lot of the points on board.” Minister O’Donovan said the OPW has received great support from the City Council and public representatives and the traders on the frontline of the flooding needed to be considered.

“Traders are now going to have to face into the reality that there is damage caused, there is stock washed away, people had two days of trading left before level 5 came in. where are they even going to get replacement stock for those two days.

“I'm not saying the scheme would be built in the last number of weeks but the traders would have a degree of certainty, enough is enough.” The Minister, who studied in Cork previously, said he was very upset by the flooding.

“Im very upset, I know the city well, I studied here, I have family in the wider Cork area and life is difficult for traders at the moment, they didn’t know what type of lockdown they were going to have and now they have water, sewage, faeces that they have to brush out and stock that is contaminated Where is this going to end.

“We want to save cork city too. My biggest fear is if we have a similar event that we had in 2009, we will have loss of life.

UPDATED 2PM:

REPORTING BY AMY NOLAN

John Minihan, who owns Minihan’s pharmacy on Oliver Plunkett Street, said although the pharmacy experienced some flooding today, the situation was “manageable”.

“It [the flooding the pharmacy experienced] wasn’t of a serious consequence, it’s more the whole clean up and all that ordeal that we had to go through,” he said.

Mr Minihan said the pharmacy readied itself when the flood warnings came in yesterday, putting up a flood gate and putting sand bags out.

He said that whilst his business managed to avoid serious flooding, some businesses in the city centre are in a much worse position.

In the wake of last night’s announcement to move to Level 5 restrictions, Mr Minihan said the flooding comes as a double blow.

“It’s shocking on top of everything,” he said.

Mr Minihan said today’s events underscore the need for urgent progress on the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project.

“The bottom line here is that if the Morrison’s Island defences were in place, I wouldn’t have been flooded this morning,” he said.

“It’s very hard to know that there’s a solution there but because of different perspectives it’s not being put in place and that’s hard. We just want our businesses and our jobs and our staff secured,” he continued.

The brakes have been put on the first phase of the flood defences at Morrison’s Island, being carried out separately by Cork City Council but partly funded by the OPW who are working closely with the council on it, as campaign group Save Cork City has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve the works.

“There will always be alternatives and someone will have another idea but we need something and the Morrison’s Island project is readily available, ready to go and I feel we should be doing it,” Mr Minihan said.

He paid tribute to the emergency services and Cork City Council for assisting businesses this morning.

“In fairness, the Civil Defence and the Fire Brigade and the City Council were there.

“Only a couple of years ago, you’d never have seen anyone on the streets.

"At least we’re getting our alert systems better and we’re getting better cooperation but we need the defences now,” he said.

Former Cork Business Association chairman and English Market fishmonger Pat O'Connell also said flood defences for the city are badly needed.

He spoke in favour of the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project, describing it as a “quick fix” for the city.

“In the immediate future, it would solve a hell of a lot of problems for a hell of a lot of businesses in Cork city centre,” he said.

“They’ve really got to get a move on with it because it’s horrific that every time there’s strong wind and rain everybody in the city centre is terrified that their livelihoods are going to be damaged again. There’s enough going on at the moment,” he added.

EARLIER

This morning's devastating flooding event in Cork city has led to calls for Cork City Council's and Office of Public works flood defence plan for Cork city to be accelerated.

Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O'Donovan has visited Cork and surveyed the damage in the city centre.

City councillors and former Lord Mayor Mick Finn said:

"Flooding in the city centre could have been prevented if the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project was allowed to progress... I call on those who propelled this vital scheme towards a judicial review to withdraw it and allow the implementation of defences to proceed - the future of the city centre depends on it.

"This scheme will help prevent flooding at the lowest point of the city and will also clean up all the old historic quay walls from Parliament Bridge to City Hall.

"Scenes in the city on Tuesday clearly illustrate the urgency of this.

“The rest of the Lee CFRAMS scheme can be reviewed - it should be noted that significant changes have already been made to the original design following inputs from councillors and the public - and talk of a tidal barrier can continue for 20 years: the Morrisson's Island scheme must happen now.

"I supported it as Lord Mayor and made it clear to voters in my election literature that I was in favour of this part of the flood defence strategy and won't disappear when the going gets tough on this issue."

 A cyclist making his way through the flood water at South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
A cyclist making his way through the flood water at South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Green Party councillor Dan Boyle added:

"It’s a devastating blow. It’s the worst flooding we’ve had in at least five years.

"It’s something that we feared and it’s something we’re aware is going to happen with increasing frequency.

"I think there’s a responsibility to facilitate works being done on Morrison's Island as quickly as possible."

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said the flooding in the wake of the Government announcement to move to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions is a double blow for traders.

"This morning is devastating for businesses particularly in the wake of last night’s announcement on the move to Level 5 restrictions.

"The flood defence scheme would have prevented this flooding from taking place.

"The flood defence scheme needs to move forward now with urgency."

 A flooded Pembroke Street in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
A flooded Pembroke Street in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Cathal Nolan, Climate Change Researcher at UCC and Founder of Ireland's Weather Channel said more bad weather could be on the way: "It really depends on the storm systems that we see.

"Over the next couple of weeks, it is likely that we are going to enter into a period whereby we do see a lot of activity coming off the Atlantic.

"There will be a higher percentage of storms during that period as usual.

"With regard to such tidal events, it really depends upon the timing of these storms as to whether they occur during periods of high tide or not and then aside from that as well it obviously depends on the level of precipitation that we see going down the River Lee basin over the course of the next couple of weeks too.

"The early indications would be that we are in for a period of particularly wet and probably stormy conditions over the next two to three weeks – certainly the risk does exist."

UPDATED 11:20

Water levels are dissipating almost three hours after high tide.

The Port of Cork tweeted: "Due to high tides and heavy rain, there is flooding at the entrance to Tivoli Industrial Estate. High tide has passed (0830) and river levels should start to reduce which will allow easy access again. HGVs are currently passing with care."

The civil defence are pumping water from Oliver Plunkett Street. 

Office of Public Works Minister Patrick O’Donovan is to visit Cork city this morning to speak with traders.

Former Cork Business Association chairman and English Market fishmonger Pat O'Connell said flood planned defences for the city are badly needed.

"How long more will the residents and businesses of Cork city have to wait for flood defences? While everyone is entitled to an opinion unelected self-appointed "experts" should not have the right to hold a City to ransom."

 Early morning flooding on the South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Early morning flooding on the South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

UPDATED 10:05

Water levels are now starting to recede in the city centre. Motorists are now being asked to avoid the city centre until 11am at least.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has described the flooding scenes as "devastating".

He tweeted: "Devastating flood scenes in Cork city & suburbs this morning. This is the last thing business owners, workers & residents need right now. Govt will work with @corkcitycouncil @Corkcoco @opwireland & local business groups to provide every possible support."

UPDATED 9:40AM

Cork City Council has released a statement:

"Cork City Council asks motorists to avoid low lying areas of Cork City Centre until 11 a.m. this morning, Tuesday 20 October, due to serious flooding. Traffic is heavy in the city as diversions are in place.

 Early morning flooding on the South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Early morning flooding on the South Terrace in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

"Cork City Council Operations crews, Cork City Fire Brigade and Cork City Civil Defence are on site to assist as serious flooding has occurred on low lying quays, Oliver Plunkett Street, South Mall, with waters coming up Caroline Street and Winthrop Street.

Flooding on South Terrace. Pic: John Roycroft.
Flooding on South Terrace. Pic: John Roycroft.

"Further updates will be posted on Cork City Council's Twitter (@corkcitycouncil) and on www.corkcity.ie."

 

UPDATED 9:15AM:

Several quayside areas of Cork city now have large amounts of water flowing through them. South Mall, Oliver Plunkett Street and nearby streets have been particularly badly hit.

Oliver Plunkett Street this morning.
Oliver Plunkett Street this morning.

Most of Oliver Plunkett Street is heavily flooded.

There are reports of water entering business on South Terrace.

Caroline Street this morning.
Caroline Street this morning.

Motorists are being advised to avoid the city centre until at least 10am this morning.

In the county, Bantry, Youghal and Kinsale have also been severely affected by flooding. 

AA Roadwatch said this morning:

"Severe flooding reported in the city centre and Cork City Council are advising motorists to avoid the city centre until after 10am if possible.

"Emergency services are advising not to travel through Bantry as the town centre is flooded.

"In Kinsale, Pier Rd is impassable due to flooding.

"Back St (R634) is flooded in Youghal and Gardaí are asking to avoid the area.

"Whitegate Village (R630) is also flooded so use alternative routes this morning.

"In Carrigaline, flooding has been reported on a number of routes around the town including Crosshaven Rd, Station Rd and on Main St."

UPDATE 8.50AM:

Cork city has been hit by flooding in several areas of the city centre this morning.

There is a significant amount of water flowing down, South Terrace, South Mall and down onto Oliver Plunkett Street.

Water is close to entering some businesses on South Terrace. Pic: John Roycroft.
Water is close to entering some businesses on South Terrace. Pic: John Roycroft.

Fr Mathew Quay and Rutland Street are now flooded. Morrison's Quay and Wandesford Quay have some spot flooding. Union Quay is flooded but is passable at George's Quay.

Flooding on South Terrace. Pic: Dan Linehan.
Flooding on South Terrace. Pic: Dan Linehan.

EARLIER:

Bantry town centre is flooded and the local fire brigade is urging people to avoid travelling towards it this morning.

 

Cork is bracing itself for further potential flooding this morning with a yellow rainfall warning also remaining in place until 3pm today.

Cork City Council and Cork County Council have both issued flood warnings in light of the heavy rainfall and the occurrence of very high astronomical Spring Tides.

Flooding continues to be a risk this morning with high tide at 8.35am.

City Hall has said that it is highly likely that flooding will occur in particular on: Morrison’s Quay; Mathew Quay; Mathew Street; Union Quay; Trinity Bridge; South Terrace; Rutland Street; Sawmill Street; Lavitts Quay; Kyrls Street; Kyrls Quay; Crosses Green; Sharman Crawford St; and Wandesford Quay.

David Joyce, Director of Operational Services in Cork City Council said the council was well equipped to handle potential flooding.

"Cork City Council is well prepared to support the citizens and businesses of Cork during this tidal event.

"We have resources on standby and in conjunction with the other Principal Response Agencies, including the Fire Services, An Garda Síochána and the Civil Defence, we stand ready to respond to whatever issues arise," he said.

Motorists are advised not to park in any of the areas listed until after 10am this morning.

Cork City Council workers have already closed off Sharman Crawford St.

There are reports of flooding on South Terrace and Morrison's Island.

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