With November set to go on record as the worst month for flooding in Ireland since records began, many of those affected may take comfort in the news that things cannot get much worse.
The fallout after the initial disaster – shortages of clean water in many parts of the South and West, damaged property, frustrated insurance claims and public anger at the response of the government – reveal the humanitarian as well as economic and infrastructural cost of what has happened. According to insurer Hibernian Aviva, damage to homes may exceed €250 million.
As we enter December, the force and frequency of the rains is not expected to be as substantial as recent days and weeks. At the time of writing, however, water levels on the flooded River Shannon could take three weeks to drop. That is according to the government’s Emergency Response Co-ordination Committee chairman Seán Hogan, who said that the tremendous volume of water may take that amount of time to work its way south to the sea.
National and regional daily newspapers have been inundated with a variety of letters from those affected, whether they be commending relief efforts or calling for more help. Conservative estimates suggest that 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes, though this figure does not take into account those who evacuated voluntarily. Stories of parents desperately trying to get their children to school have also been a regular feature of the flooding crisis.
Agricultural land in some areas of the country has been rendered useless at a time when the farming industry was already struggling due to the ongoing economic situation both domestically and globally. South Galway farmer Michael Kelly said “we have 20 farmers in my area alone who are cut-off”, adding that it was “appalling” that Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith had not visited the area.
The farming community, however, is now able to draw upon a €2 million Fodder Aid Scheme provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. According to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), the fodder will be brought to Gort, Ballinasloe and Banagher and distributed through the organisation’s branch structure to farmers who need foodstuff for their livestock. The fodder fund is in addition to the €10 million already earmarked by the government for flood relief, a figure that is expected to be increased as the true extent of the damage is revealed.