Frantic traders scramble for sandbags




DEFENCE PLAN

Traders in Cork City who were swamped by flood waters again last night have lashed out after chaotic scenes during a sandbag distribution operation yesterday.

Hundreds of frantic business owners had to clamber as some 2,000 sandbags and flood sacks were handed out from trucks on Oliver Plunkett St before the flood struck.

One business owner said there was no system and no organisation.

“It was like something out of the Third World with people crowding around the truck, desperate to get their hands on sandbags,” he said.

Some people used supermarket trolleys and buggies to carry sandbags away.

A spokesman for City Hall said people were “generally very appreciative” of the council’s efforts to supplement their own protection plans for their premises.

But he accepted there were issues with the distribution.

“The priority was to distribute sandbags to those people who needed them but we will review the system to see if it can be improved,” he said.

The city’s Flood Emergency Response Group, comprising representatives of the Defence Forces, Naval Service, gardaí, HSE, Port of Cork and the city council, met several times throughout the day to co-ordinate preparations.

Road closures began at 7pm and motorists and pedestrians were advised to stay away from the city centre between 7pm and 10pm to ensure safe movement of emergency vehicles.

Cork City Fire Brigade was backed up by the Civil Defence’s water and boat unit volunteers.

Council cleansing staff were on duty until midnight, and reported back for duty at 6am this morning.

UCC, which suffered damage worth tens of millions of euro in the 2009 flood, took extra precautions and deployed tidal barriers at several of its buildings.

The only UCC property normally at risk from tidal flooding are some parts of the Lee Maltings complex.

But tidal barriers were deployed at The Enterprise Centre and Butler Building in the North Mall, The Connolly Complex, including The Granary, 20/21 Dyke Parade and Muskerry Villas.

And because heavy rain was forecast, flood barriers were also deployed at The Laurels and Roseleigh on the Western Road to guard against possible flash flooding.

It was hoped that the barriers would be removed by 7.30am this morning, with all the buildings open by 8.30am.

The CIT Cork School of Music closed at 7pm last night, and the Cork College of Commerce and St John’s Central College also cancelled night classes.

The president of Cork Chamber called last night on the Office of Public Works (OPW) to engage in a new round of consultation over their multimillion-euro flood defence plans for the city.

Gillian Keating dismissed the consultation which took place last July as “ineffective and “flawed”.

She said the chamber has written to the OPW seeking “more meaningful engagement” with city centre businesses who are desperately crying out for flood defences.

“There has been no update on their Lee CFRAMS website since July,” Ms Keating said.

“We want them to keep the lines of communication open and to update their website so that people have confidence in the process.

“The chamber has no problem waiting for the right solution, but for God’s sake, tell us what’s happening.”

Minister Brian Hayes, who has responsibility for the OPW, insisted that a draft flood defence plan for the city will be ready before the end of the year, describing it as a “very substantial capital programme”.

“This is a major scheme, and once we have brought forward the proposals, I am confident that we can get going on this plan next year,” he said.

“We have to get a solution that works. That requires modelling, detailed design and planning.”

Meanwhile, Cork Labour TD Ciarán Lynch, raised flood insurance issues in the Dáil last night.

He said talks are underway between the OPW and the insurance industry on a “memorandum of understanding” which could see insurance cover being restored to areas once flood defences are installed.

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