The parish priest of St Mary’s in Limerick — where hundreds of homes have been destroyed by flooding — has called on the State to provide mental-health assistance for residents.
Very Reverend Fr Donough O’Malley said he had visited St Mary’s Park and had seen “devastation” and “suffering” of unprecedented levels.
“There are a lot of elderly people suffering distress and psychological trauma,” Fr O’Malley said. “They need assistance.”
He said he had spoken to a parishioner in her 80s, who witnessed all she had worked for wiped out in seconds.
“It was one of the saddest sights I have seen. All she had strove for in life, building a home, borrowing from the credit union over the years, her family living in that house... and then to see it all destroyed in a short space of time.
“It has brought devastation and suffering,” he added.
Fr O’Malley said that Assumpta Park and Abbeyview were destroyed in seconds.
“There was water of over five feet all around the area. I couldn’t get out of the house to get across to the church,” he said.
Despite the deluge around it, St Mary’s Church “miraculously” escaped damage, said Fr O’Malley.
He said, a wedding and a baptism, and two Masses, had to be rescheduled and postponed when the flood struck without warning.
“The reason for canceling the baptism, I believe, was when the family involved woke up, they found their clothes swimming around their house,” Fr O’Malley told Limerick’s Live 95FM.
“It was quite miraculous the church survived it, as there was five-feet of water everywhere when the Abbey River burst its banks.”
Fr O’Malley said he had trust in the Government’s promise to immediately provide increased flood defences in the area, and that it would follow through with a long-term defence scheme.
He believed the defences breached by the flooding on Saturday were inadequate.
The city council “had certain defence mechanisms in place in front of the houses facing the Abbey River. On the island bank, there is a two-foot wall — that was [only] a blip when the water came. Perhaps that could be looked at”, he said.
Fr O’Malley called on the city council to quickly provide flood victims with “cleaning materials”, which he said were in short supply.
“As you can appreciate, the standard of the water that went into the houses was far from drinking water.”
He said he had met St Vincent de Paul officials “and they assured me they will put in place an opportunity for people to apply for fuel, food, cleaning materials, and clothes”.
“The St Vincent de Paul have a shop set up on Thomas Street and people are welcome to go there to be dealt with confidentially and properly,” added Fr O’Malley.
While he had faith in the Government’s promise to help the parish, he described the flooding as the “third major hit on the community”.
“There was the 1980s recession and the recession in 2005 and we’ve had [broken] promises on regeneration but nothing has been built in this area.”
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