THE head of the ESB has defended the company’s flood warnings issued in the hours before Cork was struck by the worst flood in living memory.
Company chief executive Padraig McManus said: “There was no ambiguity whatsoever in the flood warnings we gave – it meant serious flooding for Cork.”
Mr McManus was reacting publicly for the first time following publication of a report by Cork’s city manager Joe Gavin on the flood crisis. It detailed the flood warnings issued by the ESB to the city council about the volumes of water being discharged from the Inniscarra Dam, eight miles above Cork city, on November 19.
It showed that four flood warnings issued by the ESB on the day vastly under-estimated the volume of water which was eventually discharged from the dam.
The ESB’s first warning at 11.30am advised a discharge rate of 150 cubic metres per second. The fourth warning at 5.30pm advised that discharge levels would exceed 300 cubic metres per second. It was the last official warning to the council.
At 10.10pm, as the Lee Road water treatment plant began to flood, council workers rang the dam complex and were advised that the discharge rate would reach 450 cubic metres of water per second.
Within two hours, the treatment plant was under nine feet of water and the western suburbs and city centre were flooded.
The following day, ESB officials confirmed that at the peak of the flood, up to 535 cubic metres of water was being discharged every second.
In a statement released last night, the ESB said it “strongly rejects subsequent interpretations of the report that the company’s warnings seriously underestimated the volume of water that had to be discharged from the Inniscarra Dam”.
“Such a perception is inaccurate and misleading,” the company said.
“Given the unprecedented levels of water entering the reservoirs, it was not possible to predict what volumes would be discharged.
“At no stage did ESB indicate that the situation had stabilised, nor did it specify a limit to the discharge rate that would issue from the dam.”
Speaking to the News at One on Radio 1, Mr McManus said the company warned of serious flooding early on November 19.
“Our responsibility is to manage the rate of water that leaves the dam so that we can keep back as much as we can but not risk the integrity of the dam.
“That was the ESB responsibility and that’s what ESB people did.”
The company said it looks forward to the review of the situation announced by environment minister John Gormley.
The Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Dara Murphy, called last night on the ESB to make public its report to that review.
“We have been open about our timelines. The same should be done by the ESB,” he said.
“We’ve said what happened. The ESB owes it to the people of Cork to do the same.”
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