RED ALERT – Calls flood in for Emergency Assistance

Date Published : December 6th, 2015    Published By : Declan Keogh

‘It’s cold, it’s wet and very windy, and we’re all starting to get tired now but we have to keep going to help the locals.’ Hundreds of members of the emergency voluntary services across Ireland have been out in force in many areas assisting the Principal Response Agencies as Storm Desmond battered the country with wind gusts of up to 120km/h and more than 100mm of rain fallen along the south, west and northwest of Ireland.

Report:  Declan Keogh
After Met Éireann’s Status Red warnings were issued, Crisis Management Teams at many Local Authorities placed their local Civil Defence on official standby while other voluntary services such as the Irish Red Cross and Search & Rescue services were also notified of a stand-by alert.

640 CORK North CD Roads
Photo - (Gary Minihane)

MAYO - In County Mayo, the town of Crossmolina was affectively shut off due to severe flooding after the River Deel had broke its banks, the River Moy didn't.  A spokesperson for Mayo County Council said it is likely that it will be a couple of days before the town reopens due to the extent of the flooding there. The river level is being monitored and the Civil Defence and other volunteers are issuing sandbags and a response team is ready to go if the river breaks its banks.

640 Mayo CD Volunteer Pic Mayo CD
Photo: (Mayo Civil Defence)

Mayo Civil Defence was activated shortly after 11.30am yesterday by Mayo County Fire Service through the Western Regional Control Centre in Castlebar where they continued their flood response operations while assisting the community late yesterday evening and into the night. Crews from Ballina and Castlebar assisted Mayo County Fire Service, the Fire and Emergency Support Service of the Irish Red Cross and local authority operative staff.

640 MAYO Boat Crew
Photo: (Mayo Civil Defence)

Boat crews and their communications vehicle were active all night and remain in operation as refreshed crews turned out again this morning. Other areas of Mayo including South Mall in Westport were also closed due to flooding while severe flooding occurred between Collooney and Ballisodare, Co. Sligo.

640 Mayo CD SafeEquip Pic Mayo CD
Photo: (Mayo Civil Defence)

Fianna Fail councillor for Crossmolina Michael Loftus said it is devastating. “The Irish Red Cross was called out to assist people who were in houses and gave them food and drink and this was a great help to the people of Crossmolina, but it is devastating.

640 MAYO Crews2
Mayo County Council, Fire Service and volunteers assist community

KERRY - A full scale operation involving many of the emergency and voluntary services was underway in County Kerry as many parts became flooded. Affected areas were Ballymullen, Castlemane Road, Killarney, White Bridge, Ballycasheen and also at Knocknaboul Bridge.

Approximately 50 members of the Civil Defence and 20 operatives from Kerry County Council were deployed following activation by the Major Emergency Management (MEM) team yesterday. Kerry Civil Defence mobilised all of its units. The Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) assisted Kerry Fire & Rescue Service with pumping water in the Ballymullen area of Tralee. Other members continued to fill additional sandbags which were being used in affected areas.

640 Kerry Floods Personnel boats
Photo: (Kerry Civil Defence)

Kerry County Council became concerned for the welfare of those stranded in their homes affected by flooding. The MEM requested assistance from the Irish Red Cross who sent teams of twenty volunteers from Tralee and Mallow, Co. Cork to assist the civil defence in house-to-house welfare checks and ascertain whether any evacuations were required.  One incident of an emergency evacuation was required and an ambulance was mobilised to assist. This area of operation was coordinated by Kerry’s Civil Defence Officer Tom Brosnan through the regions Inter-Agency Emergency Coordination Unit.

640Kerry Floods vehicles
Photo: (Kerry Civil Defence)

Ger O’ Brien, Senior Executive Officer at Kerry County Council said ‘The Ballybunnion area remains flooded this morning while other areas appear to be clear now. The Tralee By-pass is still closed but is likely to re-open shortly. There are no other major issues to report around the county at this time; however, we would ask all drivers to exercise caution as while conditions have substantially improved, there may be still patches of flood water and debris on the roads.”

Later in the evening as conditions worsened, the Defence Forces and a local boat unit were also activated to assist in the emergency while on-going assistance was being provided by the National Ambulance Service and the West Cork Rapid Response Doctors.

Communication between all agencies was a crucial element throughout the flooding response and the Major Emergency Management team have acknowledged and thanked TETRA Ireland for their priority assistance in providing ‘talk groups’ on the TETRA network through the Garda and the National Ambulance Service radio networks, which enabled the local coordination team and Civil Defence to communicate directly to all services on the one network when required.

640 Kerry Civil Defence Tetra radio Operator
(Operations Commander Paul Baynham, Kerry Civil Defence)

According to Paul Baynham, Operations Commander with Kerry Civil Defence, this facility was a valuable asset to the operation. “We had 11 TETRA’s in use and everything was being logged on situation boards in HQ and n the MEM unit. The MEM unit was acting as a go-to point for new crews landing on site and also as a registration point for evacuees” he said.

The call-out response in Kerry was downgraded as Met Éireanns ‘Status Red’ alert ended at around 3am this morning.

The Civil Defence Officer (CDO) implemented a rota system which released volunteers from duties to allow them to dry off and get some hot food and rest. The welfare service provided hot food throughout the day and night, to almost one hundred volunteers, fire fighters gardai and council staff working during the floods. The overall operation was coordinated by Kerry CDO Tom Brosnan. Mr. Brosnan has praised all the volunteers from all services for their fast response and continued and valued contribution.

CORK - In Cork, Bandon town appeared to have been worst affected by the storm. The River Bandon burst its banks, flooding numerous business premises and making roads impassable. As locals assess the damage left behind by Storm Desmond, local councillor Alan Coleman said people in the town are still braced for the worst but locals are said to be angry, as a promised flood defence for the area since the floods of November 2009 has not been put n place. Gillian Powell of Bandon Flood Group says ‘It is a critical issue for Bandon. We had a red Alert, so we know it is coming and we know it s going to get more prevalent because of global warming and the storm patters coming into Ireland and it is time to act for a flood defence in Bandon’.

640 CORK SOUTH CD Sandbagging Pic Cork South
Photo: (Cork South Civil Defence)

Eighteen volunteers from Cork South Civil Defence were deployed to Bandon at around 4pm yesterday for flood prevention efforts. Three 4x4 jeeps, a minibus and their control unit were in operation for most the evening and again, onto the night. Civil Defence personnel from Cork West were also mobilised.

Cork County Fire Service was heavily involved in pumping water in the greater Bandon area. Fire crews from Bandon, Clonakilty and Kinsale fire stations were assisted by the civil defence Auxiliary Fire Service in water pumping.

640 Cork North CD Pumping
Photo - (Gary Minihane)

Twenty army personnel from Collins Barracks were sent to Bandon, during which time, the Defence Forces and the Swift Water team rescued many people who became flood-stranded in their vehicles. Emergency Times also understands the Irish Red Cross was also deployed to the Bandon area. Flood prevention and assistance was also provided in Skibereen, Co. Cork.

640 Kerry defence Force and Civil defence in flood
Photo: (Kerry Civil Defence)

Placed on Stand-By -  Cork North was placed on standby but there was no call-outs in their area over the weekend while in the midlands, Civil Defence in Roscommon and in Westmeath were also placed on official standby, however, the conditions in the midland counties didn't warrant the scale of response seen in other areas.

DONEGAL - In County Donegal, the N56 roads at Ardara, between Donegal and Glenties and at Drimnaraw, Letterkenny were closed to flooding and gardai and council staff put diversions n place. Fire-fighters from Donegal worked hard to save homes from flooding. Emergency and voluntary services were also engaged in Ballybofey and Stranorlar as it was feared the River Finn would burst its banks as it had risen to ‘dangerous levels’.

As fire crews from Donegal Fire Service and volunteers filled sandbags to prevent homes being flooded, much of their efforts were concentrated at Letterkenny General Hospital in the early stages, where just two years a stream had flooded the hospital entrance, and this area was being monitored on a rolling basis. During the flood response operations, Donegal Civil Defence assisted farmers to move animals to higher ground.

Gardai in Donegal said a number of roads are impassable, while other roads have been closed and this will remain so for the time being. Garda Inspector Goretti Sheridan said ‘Conditions remain very dangerous with a lot of water lying on the roads and with the assistance of Donegal County Council; we will ensure that these roads remain closed until its safe. The fire brigade and civil defence are also out working on the ground.’

640 Kerry Emergency Agency personnel
Irish Red Cross and Civil Defence teams work together

CLARE - While it’s not yet clear whether the fire or civil defence services in Clare  were activated, Clare County Council did activate its Emergency Hotline number early yesterday for members of the public to report blocked roads, fallen trees and flooding while people were advised to report any life threatening emergencies through the Emergency 999 or 112 systems. The Emergency Control Centre was operational from 5.30pm. Tom Tiernan, Senior Engineer with Clare County Council said, "Many of the county's roads have been impacted by incessant rainfall which has led to the overflowing of a number of tributaries, streams and rivers"

DEFENCE FORCES - The Defence Forces were deployed to assist Local Authorities and Voluntary Services during Storm Desmond yesterday evening with army personnel and vehicles to Cork and Kerry following a Civil Aid requests from Local Authorities in the Southern region. In a statement to Emergency Times news, Commandant Sean Ó Fátharta of the Defence Forces Press Office confirmed a Platoon of Troops comprising 20 personnel and two 6X6 Troop Carrying Vehicles (TCVs) were deployed to Bandon, Co Cork to assist in flood defence work. 6X6 TCVs and soldiers were also deployed to Kenmare, Tralee and Bantry and were co-located with HSE medical teams to assist them to get to medical emergencies in flooded areas when required.

640 KY Floods Defence Forces and Major Emergency Coordination unit
Photo: (Kerry Civil Defence)

When contacted by Emergency Times yesterday evening, a member of the voluntary services described the situation.  ‘It’s cold, it’s wet and very windy, and we’re all starting to get a bit tired now but we have to keep going to help the locals.’

Crisis Management teams in Local Authorities and other agencies are expected to hold meetings tomorrow morning as part of the emergency management plans, to assess the response and delivery of service in affected areas.

Meanwhile in County Laois, gardai and Laois County Fire and Rescue Service are treating as a hoax, a call to a river rescue. Fire Brigade units from Mountmellick and Portlaoise responded to the call shortly before 2am on Saturday morning, along with local gardai and the HSE National Ambulance Service. Following an extensive search of the river and local area, no sighting was found or any evidence was found, to suggest a person entered the water.

640 Laois Fire rescue River Hoax
Photo: (Laois County Fire & Rescue Service)

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