ESB not aware of likely damage to Cork city from dam waters

THE ESB has insisted it was not aware of the likely damage to Cork city when it released more than 520 cubic metres of water per second from the Inniscarra dam in November last year.

Speaking during an on-site briefing with members of the cross-party Oireachtas committee, the firm said it did not have prior knowledge of what the consequences of the decision on November 19 might be.

During the historic flood, large parts of Cork city centre were faced with up to two feet of water after an overnight deluge gripped the region.

However Nicholas Tarrant, ESB power engineer, said while flood maps “above and beyond” November’s water levels were available from the Office of Public Works, it was not possible to know that large parts of the city would be so badly flooded.

He added that ESB officials contacted the relevant local authorities on the night to inform them of potential flooding, but insisted the firm’s actions on November 19 at Inniscarra dam “mitigated the flooding by 33%”.

During the on-site Oireachtas briefing, Fianna Fáil TD Noel O Flynn asked if the ESB felt responsible for any of the estimated €80-100 million damage caused during the flooding.

Mr Tarrant responded that he was “absolutely confident” of the decisions taken by the “very professional staff here”.

Members of the committee also questioned the exact content of the flood warning messages to local authorities and services involved, but the precise details were not made available.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Cork South Central Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said he believed the issue of a specific risk assessment for the potential consequences of the release of water was the “smoking gun” in the November floods crisis.

“While today’s meetings were useful, there are still many questions which remain unanswered particularly regarding elements of the emergency plan, risk management and communications procedures,” he added.

A statement from the Oireachtas Committee said the group has resolved to seek answers on “why the effects of the floods were so significant and what is being done to prevent future situations re-occurring”.

It is understood that the cross-party group, which is due to conclude a report on the situation in the coming months, is also seeking a second meeting with ESB at Leinster House over the issue.


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