About 2,000 people living in 300 homes in have been swamped by floods not seen in Limerick in living memory.
Large parts of the city yesterday remained under water after “unprecedented” flooding struck several areas over a 320km radius in the early hours of Saturday morning when the River Shannon burst through flood defences.
The HSE has advised people to “always assume” the flood water is contaminated, and may be carrying Weil’s disease, carried by rats and which can be fatal to humans. It said the local drinking water supply was not contaminated.
The city was submerged and cut off on Saturday. Yesterday, about 150 service crews and volunteers were engaged in an emergency response. An emergency action plan remains in place with further high tides and gales expected today and on Wednesday.
Seán Hogan, national director of fire and emergency management, visited the worst-hit areas to access the cost of the damage.
St Mary’s Park, a low-level landmass situated on the Shannon riverbank, attached to the northside of the city, was under several feet of water yesterday. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and 60 people evacuated. Three elderly people are being treated in hospital but are in a stable condition.
A full inter-agency response is being led by three principle agencies including the council, the gardaí, and the HSE. City and county manager Conn Murray paid tribute to the communities who had shown “tremendous spirit” in the face of a “traumatic experience”.
“We continue to be on high alert and have a team in place to establish a recovery plan when flood levels have been reduced,” he said.
St Munchin’s Community Resource Centre — the co-ordination point for the emergency crews — has been supplying 400 meals a day for free. “This community centre is going to need emergency funding. I am going to seek that funding at a meeting of Limerick City Council,” said former Fine Gael mayor, Kevin Kiely.
Mr Murray — responding to complaints from residents that not enough was done to prevent the floodwater swamping their homes — said he was happy with the response form his staff.
“Our crews were there immediately [once] the calls were put through to the emergency services. This was an extraordinary, unprecedented flooding incident. And those who are longest living in St Mary’s Park would equally acknowledge the fact that they have not witnessed the level or extent of this. I am very happy with the commitment of my staff.”
St Mary’s Park resident, Ger Hogan has become a local hero. He and his faithful three-year-old mare Peg rescued more than 100 people from their homes in the estate and ferried them to dry ground.
Mr Murray said alternative emergency accommodation would continue to be offered to residents and a “survey of people’s needs requirements” is under way.
The cost of the damage and clean up is estimated to run into millions of euro.
Local Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, the housing minister, said Brendan Ho-wlin, the public expenditure minister, has “accepted” that a government aid fund set up before Christmas to help people hit by floods in Cork, Clare, and Dublin will have to be increased to help alleviate the situation in Limerick. She said it was “too early” to know how much would be provided.
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