JIM HEGARTY is a proud man and by his own admission a happy man but he’s living with a “death sentence”.
Last November’s devastating flood, which swamped his Carrigrohane home, has been blamed for the growth of deadly mould all over its walls.
The 58-year-old, who suffers from a respiratory condition, has been told by his GP that living thereposes serious, potentially life-threatening health risks.
Jim has spent seven months in a caravan and said despite his GP’s warning, he can’t face another winter in it. “This is my home. My spirit is here. I want the death sentence lifted,” he said.
Jim is one of 80 or so of the city’s flood victims who, 10 months on, are still struggling with the long-term effects of the disaster.
The entire ground floor of his home was destroyed on the night of November 19 last when the ESB was forced to release millions of tonnes of water from its Inniscarra dam.
The deluge caused tens of millions of euro worth of damage to public and private property.
Jim’s house, which was uninsured, was one of hundreds which was inundated by up to four feet of water. He lost everything. The house, which still bears the scars of the flood, now poses a deadly new risk.
He peels ruined wallpaper from a stained wall to show the life-threatening mould and fungus growing behind. It grows on all four walls, up to the water mark.
Warped floor boards buckle under ruined carpets. In one room, a photograph of screen siren Marilyn Monroe hangs above a large patch of fungus.
Destroyed couches and side-boards stand side-by-side in another damp musty room.
His cherished banjo sits on a water-stained chair.
His only sanctuary is the kitchen, which was replaced with the help of the St Vincent de Paul – an organisation he praises.
“As far as officials are concerned, this crisis is over. They think we all got compensation and that we’re sorted. We didn’t and it’s not,” Jim said.
His GP outlined his plight in a letter to the Flood Committee which was set up by former Lord Mayor Cllr Dara Murphy to co-ordinate relief for the city’s flood victims.
The GP told Mr Murphy that the mould and fungus which has begun to appear in other flood damaged homes could pose serious and potentially life-threatening risks to the elderly and those with certain lung conditions like asthma.
Jim said he decided to go public to highlight the problems still facing flood victims.
“I’m not a whinger, moaner or a beggar. I’m a survivor,” he said.
“You go to people, and try to get help. You go to other people and try to get help again. My family has done what it can but in the end, you feel like you’re on your own,” Jim said.
“I am very worried that a flood could happen again. What we need is reassurance that it won’t happen again.”
Mr Murphy, who was lord mayor during the flood crisis, said Jim is one of the many voiceless victims.
“No one was killed in the Cork flood by the grace of God but we are failing people massively,” he said.
“These people are not organised, they are not shouting, they are not marching. They are voiceless.
“But they need help. This problem has not gone away.
“There remains an ongoing vacuum in relation to dealing with this. There is a lack of urgency on the part of the Government to deal with this.”
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