‘Complacent functionaries’ worsen floods misery

WE must be grateful for small mercies — but not too grateful to those who released more than 500 tonnes of water per second close to midnight last Thursday when most people were in bed and business owners, already trying to cope with a battered economy, had left their premises unaware that the ESB, in its wisdom, had decided to lower the water level in the Inniscarra dam as the witching-hour of midnight approached.

The small mercies are that nobody was injured directly as a result of the ESB action, unlike what happened in France almost 50 years ago when the arched dam at Malpasset collapsed after extremely heavy rainfall.

Around 9pm on December 2, 1959, millions of cubic metres of water roared down the valley towards the town of Frejus, travelling at 70km an hour.

When the wall of water hit the town, it had calamitous results for the townspeople. At least 420 people were drowned and nearly 2,000 made homeless; thousands of animals drowned and the local infrastructure was severely damaged.

It took eight years for an official report to be published and the conclusion was that a geological fault had caused cracks in the dam and the ensuing disaster.

We too will get an official report, no doubt, long after the event and I hope there will be an explanation as to why the ESB quite obviously failed adequately to explain its intentions and the possible consequences to the people of Cork.

Any report also needs to explain why the pumping station near Wellington Bridge was not replaced/updated in the past 50 years, even though the population has increased in the meantime.

People were given unctuous statements about drinking bottled water, apparently without any recognition of how much this would add to the household budget for the unemployed, those struggling with mortgage repayments and those of very limited means.

Of course, why not travel to the nearest standpipe for the aqua vitae? Everybody in Cork owns a car, according to this type of advice, everyone is fit and active, and there’s really no problem if you were to listen to complacent functionaries attempting to gloss over the failures of national and local government. RTÉ’s emphasis was on the travails of those depending on standpumps on the city’s northside as if the places without water in Barrack Street, Capwell and much of Ballinlough were enclaves of privilege and wealth.

There are young children, babies, ill people and elderly throughout the city who have been deprived of running water in domestic taps and some may still be without it by December.

We need our public representatives to create uproar with a government which has shown itself to be disconnected from the ordinary citizen and, if they’re not up to doing that, they should suffer the wrath of the electorate next time they come pleading for votes.

Not only have the people in the Lee valley suffered from what is now developing into a blame game between the ESB, the local authority and the insurance companies, but the people of the Bandon valley have been even more abandoned by those entrusted with their safety and peace of mind.

The town was cut off from the city and surrounding county, businesses were ruined and Bandon people will have to remind the powers-that-be that west Cork means more than yachting in Kinsale or holiday homes for the urban elite.

Maureen O’Donnell

Haig Gardens



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