HOMEOWNERS devastated by the 2009 Cork flood, many of whom are still dealing with repairs, have called on the ESB to accept Monday’s court ruling and offer compensation to end their six-year wait for justice.
Eric Sorensen, 66, whose Mardyke home was destroyed, said he was prepared to take the ESB to the highest court in the land, unless it offers a “reasonable settlement”. “I am up for the fight in court. Even if the ruling went the other way, I was prepared to go all the way myself. I have nothing to lose at this stage of my life.”
pictured at the Mardyke, Cork City, in 2009. Picture: Provision
Mr Sorensen is among some 40 residential flood victims who are being represented by solicitor Joe Noonan. Many have lodged legal papers and several others are now considering their options after Monday’s judgement which found the ESB was 60% responsible for the flood damage caused to UCC buildings in November 2009.
Judy Kelly, who lives with her mother, Dorothy, in Inniscarra, and who is also represented by Mr Noonan, was one of the first people hit by the flood. Because she lives so close to the Inniscarra dam, she was on a list of local residents the ESB would phone to warn them about increased discharge levels from the dam. On that night in 2009, she got one of those phonecalls, and was told to expect possible spot flooding on the road outside her home.
Dorothy Dineen, in Inniscarra.
“I went shopping in SuperValu to stock up the freezer in case the road got cut off. But I never expected what happened next,” she said.
Her home was swamped with almost 4ft of water. The damage was estimated at more than €180,000. Her insurance company gave her two options — accept their offer of €87,000 or fund the repairs herself and supply receipts. “I had no choice but to accept their offer,” she said.
The insurance payout came nowhere near covering the full cost of repairs, which she is still dealing with. “We never had a flood in over 22 years but I still have dampness in the house. I can’t get flood insurance and I can never sell this house now,” she said. She has since several flood barriers and lives in constant fear of a repeat flood.
Just minutes after her home was swamped, the Mardyke was hit by a mini tsunami as millions of tonnes of flood waters poured downriver. The flood engulfed Mr Sorensen’s home with up to 4ft of water as he slept. He was woken at 6.30am by his dog, J, and he waded in darkness, carrying J on his head, out of his flooded home.
Despite breaking two ribs, he battled strong currents to cross the Western Road which was under almost five feet of freezing water to make it to safety near UCC, from where he phoned his son for help. He was heartbroken later to find his wedding photo album and other treasured photographs of his wife, Mary, who had died just the year before, had been damaged by the flood waters.
The former engineer knew immediately that the ESB and its operation of the dam were in some way responsible for the sheer scale of the disaster. He had to battle with insurers for three months, and leave his home for six months while repairs were carried out. He moved back home in mid 2010.
“The stress of dealing with the insurance companies was nearly as stressful as the flood itself. But I can’t get flood insurance now, my home is unsaleable,” he said.
He said he was delighted that what residents have always believed — that the ESB was in some way responsible — has now finally been borne out in the courts.
“They should come clean now and make a reasonable offer to residents. Life has moved on and if a reasonable offer was made, I think most people would accept it,” he said.
Mr Sorensen still lives with the fear of another flood, and in times of heavy rain or flood alerts, he sleeps with the internal doors of his house ajar.
“It’s the psychological things like that that stay with you. They may sound like little things, but they stay with you, they do affect you. You think: ‘is this going to be the night that we flood again?’”
Billy Noonan, whose 140-year-old home on the Mardyke was also destroyed, said he is now considering his legal options. His insurance company paid out €10,000 for initial repairs but he said he and his wife had to deal with legacy repair issues, months and even years later, which they had to pay themselves. And he can no longer get flood insurance or subsidence cover for the property.
“That flood did an awful lot of damage to the house, but it damaged us as well. We had the house perfect before the flood. We are still dealing with issues, and it depresses you. I have often felt like ringing up the ESB and fecking them out of it,” he said.
Barry Keane, who has been representing flood-affected residents on the Mardyke since 2009, said he hopes to call a public meeting within a few weeks to outline the various options available to residents now.
Award-winning chef, Denis Cotter, whose top vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Paradiso was closed for almost a month after the flood, also welcomed the court decision but said he was unlikely to pursue legal action.
which was closed for a month after flooding. Picture: Eddie O’Hare
“We got a satisfactory result from our insurance company. We had a way to get going and carry on. But some residents didn’t. I felt sorry for people who didn’t have access to the solution we did.”
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