Cork County Council defends its reaction to flood crisis

5 January 2016
By Bryan Smyth
bryan@TheCork.ie

Cork County Council has issued a lengthy statement in relation to the recent flooding, indeed as it arrives the main Cork to Waterford road is still closed due to remaining water.

The County Council is the primary response agency for flooding events in Co Cork and is supported in the role by An Garda Siochana and the HSE.

The Council says its flood response was “guided by the provisions of its Severe Weather Emergency Plan which provides for graduated levels of response depending upon the severity of the event encountered. The Council’s response capability under this Emergency Plan remains in place 24 hours a day on 365 days of the year. Since early December, and in particular over the Christmas and New Year period, the Council has delivered the necessary level of response.”

County Mayor, John Paul O’Shea said he wanted to thank all of those who had responded to the needs of neighbours in local communities and also to thank all of the response crews who had worked so tirelessly in a difficult time. “The impacts of these events have been devastating to local communities but could have been far worse in the absence of the interventions made by our staff.”

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Cork County Mayor JP O’Shea (Independent)

The Council’s Chief Executive, Tim Lucey said that “the Council through its lead agency role ensured that the other key support agencies of An Garda Siochana, the HSE and, on this occasion also, the Department of Social Protection who can provide humanitarian and community welfare assistance, were fully aware of the emerging issues thus ensuring a highly co-ordinated response level. “

Coordination of the response was effected through the Council’s Sever Weather Action Team and Crisis Management Team who convened on a total of 17 occasions during the period including 8 occasions in the 24 hours commencing 8 pm on December 29th. At 1.45 am on December 30th, a decision was taken to seek support from the Defence Forces for the Midleton response. Approximately an hour later, a similar request issued in respect of Bandon town. The Crisis Management Team continued to direct the response throughout the night.

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The Council recognises that communications play a vital role in the management of emergency response situations. Since Christmas day a total of 1773 calls for assistance were made to the Council’s emergency response telephone line. Between December 29th and January 3rd., a further 329 calls were received by the Fire Service. The Council utilised its website, twitter, facebook and regular press and media releases to provide updates to the public on the status of the event, its impacts and on our response. Over the space of 10 days over a hundred such communications were issued. Over the course of storm Frank, engagement figures on facebook reached over 15,000

Staff resources were mobilised to respond to the emerging crisis situation and approximately 548 staff including local authority, fire service and civil defence personnel responded to the event. Over 31,000 thousand sand bags were distributed to those in need between December 4th. and January 5th. , 13,500 of these were distributed in the Midleton area.

Widespread damage occurred to public and private homes, particularly in the Midleton area. A total of 10 social homes were affected by flooding in Midleton. The Council provided alternative accommodation to 5 families and have commenced assessment of the remaining houses with a view to repair. In addition, third parties including the Midleton Park Hotel and Midleton College offered shelter to those in need.

With regard to Midleton, the Council notes the comments made by the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Paul Colton in today’s Irish Examiner and also on the RTE Sean O’Rourke programme. While it is unclear as to whether those comments were directed at national or local responses, the Chief Executive of the Council commented as follows in this regard. “While I would recognise that Bishop Colton’s comments have been made in good faith, it is regrettable that the particular instance of one family which was housed temporarily in Midleton College was not made known to the Council as we could have ensured that contact was made with the relevant agency which provides humanitarian assistance in such situations. Many families in private housing tend to evacuate themselves without any recourse to the Council. However, where assistance is sought, we make arrangements for alternative accommodation and welfare through our co-ordinated agency response and this occurred in other situations over the past week.”

In relation to the national business compensation scheme, the Council has provided returns to the Red Cross in respect of commercial premises damage and has achieved a 24 hour turn around in all cases thus avoiding delays in payments to any business. In excess of 50 % of claims made nationally thus far are from Cork County.

An analysis of the emergency calls received shows the widespread nature of the impacts throughout the county which placed significant demands on the Council’s resources.

The Council’s early warning system on the river Blackwater allowed the deployment of the flood defence systems and successfully prevented flooding in critical areas in Fermoy and Mallow. In addition the Councils Bandon Flood Early Warning System provided advance warning of flooding in Bandon town. The early warning system in Skibbereen and liaison with the local flood relief committee minimised flooding in the town.

A full report on the event will be made to Council at its regular meeting on Monday next, 11 January 2016.

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