Successful flood defence schemes in two North Cork towns brought great relief to householders and businesses during the current deluge.
But the millions of euro in flood protection works have still not impressed most of the insurance companies which have left townspeople in Mallow and Fermoy high and dry without cover.
Locals say they cannot understand why insurance companies have continued to categorise both towns as high flood risks despite the likelihood of flooding being miniscule.
The business community and residents have all called on the Government to make it compulsory for insurance companies to provide flood cover at a reasonable cost where effective defence mechanisms have been installed.
Bridge St in Mallow had been a regular flood-hit area. Michael Cremin recalled the struggles through many a flood in his bicycle shop there which he’s owned for 28 years.
“I previously looked for [flood] cover over the years and didn’t get it. The barriers here in Mallow have been fully tested and they work. Now insurance companies should be made provide the cover,” said Michael.
Paul O’Connor, managing director of Craft Fitted Furniture, has three shops, one of which he opened on Bridge St six years ago.
Previous to that, the premises operated as Mallow Tiles and the floors were raised to try and negate the worst effects of repeated flooding.
Again he has no flood insurance.
“The flood defences are a great job. The only thing I wonder about is if the council didn’t get them up in time would they be held responsible? I’ve never been flooded since I’ve been in here. It should be compulsory for insurance companies to offer cover when defences are in place,” he said.
Neighbour Paddy O’Sullivan provides a lawnmower sales and repair business in the street since 1998 and also cannot count the number of times he fell victim to flooding.
However, he thinks the premises was last flooded in 2008 and, since then, the flood defences were effective: “They’ve worked 100%.”
Mr O’Sullivan said it is very unlikely he will experience shop flooding again, and remains convinced the insurance industry should offer the cover it has refused for so many years.
Diana Mazeikonhas, meanwhile, has owned a beauty salon on the street for the past three years and has no flood insurance and encountered no problems since the flood defences were installed.
And in Fermoy, Antonio Talossi has owned the Wimpy fast food restaurant in Brian Boru Square, on the north side of the bridge), for 30 years. He has lost count of the many times he saw flooding.
Sometimes, he said, there was flooding three times in a year and 4ft of water was often driven into his premises. ‘’I also think it should be compulsory for insurance companies to provide flood insurance where defences are working. Every time it rained I used to worry but, since the defences have been completed, I can sleep at night.”
Adam Byrne lives around the corner at Rathealy Rd.
“I moved in there in February 2015 and I rang four or five insurance companies. Even with the flood relief works they wouldn’t touch me. The Government spent €38m of taxpayers’ money on these defences, so there should be insurance cover available,” he said.
Denis O’Mahony runs a furniture store in nearby O’Neill Crowley Quay since 1988 and was never flooded, even though it came close a few times.
He has no cover, primarily because “they offered it to us but it was so high we couldn’t afford to pay for it”.
“The recent flooding was the highest I’ve ever seen it, yet the defences were very good. It’s time the Government tackled the insurance industry,” he said.
Joe Kearney, owner of the Grand Hotel on Ashe Quay, said he had not received an offer of flood cover since the defences were put in place, adding: “When we wanted it, we couldn’t get it.”
Michael Hanley, a former town councillor and several times mayor of the town, owns a newsagent next door. He was lucky to get flood cover as the water never came up as far as his premises which also fronts onto Pearse Square — on the southern side of the bridge.
He criticised successive governments for ignoring the crisis saying most politicians were “warblers”: “Obviously there’s a change in climate which is prompting all sorts of debate right now. It should be compulsory for insurance companies to provide cover.’’
While the country was flood-stricken in December and January, the defences worked successfully, safeguarding the town centres.
Council officials said the sheer volume of water on the Blackwater river had been highlighted by a rainfall gauge in Millstreet. During the month of December, around 780mm of rain was recorded there.
The rainfall gauge in Mallow showed 350mm in December.
With defence mechanisms activated in Mallow, early in December, the authorities estimate the protection works “saved downtown Mallow at least five times” in December, alone.
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