A critical period was lost in opening a Limerick canal lock gate on Saturday night, which could have averted the flooding of the houses, it has emerged.
Waterways Ireland, which manages the Park Canal, said it was agreed after an incident on Thursday that the council would monitor water levels in the canal over the weekend and would respond if assistance was needed.
However, it said last night that it was 10pm before it was contacted by the counci,l despite the authority being alerted at around 8pm to fears over canal water levels.
The lock on the Park Canal, managed by Waterways Ireland, had been opened on Thursday due to a flood alert. It was closed subsequently and left partially opened.
However, when a huge flood from the Mulcair river deluged the canal on Saturday night, it took about three hours to fully reopen the gate when a part of the canal bank was breached leading to a huge outflow of water into Richmond Park.
One resident, Dominick Moloney, said: “I rang the council at around 8pm on Saturday night and they said they were sending out an engineer and the fire brigade and as the night progressed it just got worse and worse.”
Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, who lives in Corbally, has led calls for an investigation into why the opening of the lock gate took so long.
She said: “There does seem to have been confusion between Waterways Ireland’s role and the Limerick City and County Council’s role and the lock gates were not opened when the water poured down from the Mulcair river and they apparently didn’t open the gates until quite late in the middle of the night, by which time people were flooded.
“So certainly, there are questions to be answered as to exactly what happened and why the gate was not re-opened, having been re-opened earlier in the week.”
Waterways Ireland said: “Keys to the gates and contact details of Waterways Ireland personnel were provided to the council.
“The level of water in the Park Canal rose quickly on Saturday evening to an unanticipated high level and the force of this water meant it was not possible to open the lock gates without mechanical aid.
“Waterways Ireland was contacted by council staff at 10pm seeking assistance and eventually after midnight with mechanical intervention the gates were forced open and water levels in the Park Canal were reduced.”
However, by this time 14 houses had been flooded.