Camlough resident criticises Rivers Agency flood response

November 24, 2014

Ten days since unprecedented torrential rain sparked flooding chaos across Newry and South Armagh, some residents are still struggling to return to normal life with their homes and possessions completely destroyed by some of the worst flooding the district has ever seen.

Despite Environment Minister Mark Durkan activating an emergency scheme for householders affected by the flooding to receive £1,000 towards clean-up costs, some stricken residents of Camlough’s Cashel Close feel not enough has been done to help them ensure their homes are habitable again.

One resident also spoke to The Examiner about her concerns regarding the response of Rivers Agency to the flooding crisis at Cashel Close which she says occurred because water breached the river bank causing it to flow towards Cmalough village and into the Cashel Close properties.

The householder claims the Rivers Agency have failed in their duty to maintain and make necessary reparations to the river bank which may have prevented the recent flooding.

She maintains that the Rivers Agency have been aware for a number of years that the river overflows on a regular basis and during a recent assessment of the drainage of the river they acknowledged and advised the residents and local Sinn Fein councillor, Roisin Mulgrew, that repair work needed to be carried out to rectify the problems but that this would not be done until next spring.

With the home she shares with her parents bearing the brunt of the flooding from the overflowing river, the Camlough woman told us the entire ground floor of the property and its possessions have been “completely destroyed by contaminated water” which engulfed the house in a matter of minutes in the early hours of Friday 14th November.

According to the concerned resident, with no practical assistance offered to decontaminate the property, it was left to the householders to pay for disinfection of the area.

She is highly critical of the Rivers Agency response to her enquiries having received no reply until last Friday in a letter which advised that the Agency were exempt from liability “for any damage which may happen to any land or other property through or by the accidental overflowing of any watercourse.”

A Rivers Agency spokesperson told The Examiner: “Rivers Agency has permissive powers to carry out river maintenance. Rivers Agency completed channel works and removed bushes and trees along the watercourse in August 2013.  Further maintenance was completed in March 2014. In addition, the trash grille downstream of Cashel Close was cleared on a number of occasions between 11 and 15 November in response to a series of weather warnings. However, the rainfall experience exceeded the capacity of the watercourse and resulted in flooding to a number of properties. Rivers Agency will review the recent flood event to determine if any measures can be taken to reduce the flood risk to this area.”

Meanwhile Sinn Fein councillor Roisin Mulgrew confirmed that she is facilitating a meeting with Cashel Close residents and the Rivers Agency to clarify the issues of reparation and liability.