Communities across the country are bracing for more flooding on Thursday, many of them for the second day in a row, as Storm Ciarán begins to move across the south of the country.
In the south, Met Éireann issued status yellow warnings for Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Wicklow, Cork and Waterford, valid until Thursday morning. Communities across the south already affected by flooding, including Midleton, County Cork, hoped the expected “heavy rainfall” would not affect recovery.
Britain’s Met Office also issued a warning for Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry, warning that heavy rain would cause flooding and disruption to transport services in the north.
A Met Éireann spokesman said Storm Ciarán had begun moving towards the south of Ireland, with the brunt of the weather being felt in the UK and France. Rain was expected in the south and east.
In the north, Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy said efforts to tackle the floods were being hampered by the lack of a functioning northern assembly. Politicians are “fighting with their arms tied behind their backs” for financial support for businesses damaged in floods in the north without a functioning Stormont, he said.
Parts of the eastern half of Northern Ireland have been hit by severe flooding following heavy rain, with Newry, Portadown and Banbridge among the worst affected areas.
About 12,000 sandbags were used to combat the water.
In Newry, an estimated 80 businesses are reckoning with the cost after the city’s canal burst its banks and flooded parts on Monday evening.
Business owners in the city have spoken of the floods potentially putting hundreds of thousands of pounds at risk to their livelihoods.
Amid the ongoing collapse of the Stormont Assembly, senior civil servants are running government departments with limited powers in the absence of ministers.
An interdepartmental group has been established to coordinate central and local government efforts to support people and businesses.
In terms of support, Mr Murphy said the budget program was in place but they were looking at what was available for businesses.
“If Stormont were on the ground I have no doubt that there would be several ministers in Newry yesterday and today assisting with the ongoing operation but also focusing on working together,” he said.
“I don’t know whether that will happen in the near future or not. I know we’re up here today with our arms tied behind our backs fighting, trying to get support for the people, and clearly the best situation would be if we had people in office who could make decisions, who could put plans into action “Those who can get through Get on the ground and try to react quickly.”
In Newry, Paul McCartan, owner of men’s clothing store McCartan Bros, estimated it would cost around £250,000 to repair and restock his store.
Michael Nugent, owner of ice cream parlor Nugelato, is still counting the cost but estimates repairing the damage could cost up to £100,000.
He said: “This is the first day we have been able to access the store as it was several feet under water during yesterday’s floods. While the water has thankfully left our store, it has spilled onto the street and there is still a major problem.
“For our store it will be about saving what we can.”
“We didn’t get much warning if we had known that we could have potentially used up equipment and supplies.”
On Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Infrastructure said it would be on high alert throughout the night.
Nearly 800 calls were received to the flood emergency number and more than 12,000 sandbags were distributed to the worst affected areas.
A spokesman said water levels in rivers and lakes were continuing to be monitored as they rose and would continue to do so in the coming days.
Meanwhile, a group of business representatives and a local development agency are working together to enable faster administration of government aid through the Irish Red Cross and help businesses in east Cork, flooded by Storm Babet, to reopen in time for the Christmas market.
Adrianna Hegarty, president of the Midleton and Area Chamber of Commerce, said at a meeting with more than 70 business owners affected by the flooding there was a clear feeling that the government’s compensation scheme, which offers businesses up to €100,000, should be accelerated as quickly as possible must be.
“Over 70 business owners attended the meeting in Midleton this morning and the clear message was that compensation needs to be accelerated as quickly as possible – there are just over seven weeks until Christmas and people need to get back on track quickly for Christmas Legs come market.”
Ms Hegarty said to this end the Midleton and Area Chamber of Commerce had been working with the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) to help the Irish Red Cross more quickly administer the Government’s compensation scheme for businesses affected by floods.
“We provide a room at the chamber’s office on Main Street where the Red Cross, through the local corporate office, provides us with someone to help people fill out their application forms, because every form must be properly completed beforehand.” Compensation assessed.
“Some people at the meeting this morning were frustrated that the Red Cross had returned applications because people had not filled them out correctly. Therefore, by working with LEO, we hope to ensure that all applications are completed correctly and processed quickly.
“The scheme pays out a maximum of €100,000 and that will not be enough in some cases, but if it is paid out quickly it will help a lot of people get back on their feet as they want to open and get their businesses up and running at Christmas It’s that time of year when they make money.”
“Historically, businesses in Midleton have been very resilient and we owe a lot to our local community who came to help after the floods receded – of course now we are all just hoping that Storm Ciarán bypasses Midleton and East Cork.” We have so no repeats.”
The government has asked the Irish Red Cross to administer an emergency flood relief program for businesses, which will provide a one-off voluntary contribution towards the costs of restoring business premises to pre-flood condition, including replacing floors, fixtures and damaged fixtures.
Since Storm Babet hit the south of the country last month, nearly 40 companies have applied for emergency flood relief funding.
According to the Irish Red Cross (IRC), around 50,000 euros have already been paid out in initial tranches of 10,000 euros each to five of the most affected companies.