This has gone on long enough - it’s time now for the ESB to offer those affected by the 2009 flood a full and fair settlement.
That was the message from Eric Sorensen, one of around 40 Cork city residents who have initiated legal proceedings against the ESB arising out of the catastrophic flooding event which wrecked their homes on the night of November 19, 2009.
Mr Sorensen said those that have stayed the course over the last decade or so were all awaiting the outcome of
“At least now we are in with a fighting chance. I hope we don’t have to go to court again. I hope the ESB will come up with a compensation package. I don’t want to be waiting another five years," he said.
On that night in November 2009, after days of heavy rainfall, millions of tonnes of water were discharged from the ESB's dams at Inniscarra. A mini tsunami swept downriver towards the western outskirts of Cork city, flooding the Lee Fields, the Kingsley Hotel, County Hall, and sweeping eastwards towards the Mardyke and the Western Road.
The flood hit Mr Sorensen’s home on the Mardyke in the early morning, swamping it with up to four feet of water as he slept.
He was woken at 6.30am by his dog, J, and had to wade through his house, with his dog on his head, to find a safe way out.
He broke ribs as he escaped through a window, and he had to battle 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 said he knew soon afterwards that the ESB and its operation of the dam were in some way responsible for the disaster.
He contracted pneumonia in the weeks afterwards, and was out of his house for months while repairs were done.
He said the value of his property fell by an estimated 20% and he has been unable to get flood insurance cover since.
Mr Sorensen said it was clear to him and to many others at the time where responsibility for the flood disaster lay.
“In my opinion the ESB should’ve put their hands up years ago and said ‘look, we did wrong’,” he said.
“This has gone on for far too long. It’s time now for the company to do the right and honourable thing and to sit down with our legal representatives and agree a compensation package.
“I would hope that the ESB does the honourable thing now and not force us down the courts road again.”
The residents' claims against the ESB are among some 387 sets of proceedings the company is facing in relation to the flooding in Cork in November 2009.
The ESB said it has not been possible to make a reliable estimate of their total cost but it said in February that it did not anticipate that the total amount of damages awarded, if any, and related costs for all of the actions, including the Aviva/UCC action, would exceed its applicable insurance cover.