Motorists broke locks on gates erected by Cork County Council which were closed to prevent people being submerged on severely flooded roads.
Councillors described the actions as “appalling’’ after being informed of the reckless behaviour by council engineers.
The so-far unidentified culprits put their lives at risk and led to council staff being diverted away from defending houses and businesses during critical flooding periods.
Several other motorists ignored flood warning signs erected by the local authority, endangering their own lives when their cars were swamped.
They also put the emergency services in danger during rescues.
Jim Moloney, a senior executive engineer in North Cork, told councillors at a Mallow/Kanturk municipal meeting that “some gates put up had locks broken on them”.
He said that as a result the council was forced to divert staff to seal off the previously gated areas to prevent loss of life.
Staff were also sent to patrol roads where people were consistently ignoring flooding signs.
“We had to put staff on junctions when they could have been otherwise engaged putting out sandbags etc,’’ said Mr Moloney.
Councillor Dan Joe Fitzgerald said he had heard about locks being broken but did not believe it had happened until he heard it from the engineer.
“We should condemn anybody who was involved in that,’’ he said.
Mayor of County Cork John Paul O’Shea said it was “absolutely appalling behaviour.’’
Meanwhile, Cork Chamber has called on the Government to accelerate works on flood defences in the city and county and has said its members will make it one of their top general election issues.
Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said that apart from scores of businesses and householders suffering during the flooding, damage to infrastructure in the region was also impacting on trade.
He said his organisation has reiterated the urgent need for the start of work on the various flood relief schemes in the Cork region.
Mr Healy said in particular, Cork Chamber had corresponded with the OPW minister Simon Harris on a number of recent occasions about how critical it was to hasten work on flood defence schemes, especially for the Lower Lee in Cork City.
“We have been faced with lengthy delays in this scheme which had originally had a completion date in 2016. However, currently we are looking at a possible timeline indicating a date in 2022,” said Mr Healy.
“It goes without saying that renewed and sustained focus at Government level needs to be directed at ensuring schemes are delivered on schedule and Cork Chamber will continue to pursue action on this into 2016. The chamber will be including this issue in our pre-election manifesto as one of our top priority election issues in advance of the upcoming elections.
“It is with great dismay that once again we see flood events in Cork that are reminiscent of 2009 events and where for the most part the impacts of these flood events could have been avoided.”
Mr Healy said there had been a number of road closures in the county, with important access and commuting routes in the region remaining closed, including the N25 Cork to Waterford road, closed between Castlemartyr and Killeagh.
He said this had consequent impacts from a trade perspective, especially between the two cities.
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