Page last updated at 12:24 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Irish flood 'worst for 800 years'

Grand Parade in Cork city
Grand Parade in Cork city under water (Credit: David O'Riordan)

Last week's flooding in the Irish Republic was the worst the country had experienced in 800 years, Environment Minister John Gormley said.

Mr Gormley was speaking ahead of Irish PM Brian Cowen's visit to the parts of the country which were worst affected.

"We are talking about events which have been described as once-in-800-years," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Cowen has said flood protection schemes would remain a priority for his government.

He was speaking during a visit to Clonmel, County Tipperary, to inspect the damage from the recent flooding. The prime minister will also visiting counties Cork, Clare and Galway on Monday afternoon.

Cork, the Republic of Ireland's second city, is among the worst hit areas.

When asked if there would be money for those who have suffered from the floods, he said the cabinet would be meeting on Tuesday to decide on the government response.

Mr Cowen chairs the Emergency Response Co-Ordination Committee, which met twice over the weekend to consider the crisis.

Police and members of Ireland's armed forces have been delivering drinking water to thousands of people after a pumping station was damaged by flood water.

Engineers have begun work on repairing the damage, but it will be the weekend at the earliest before water is restored.

The local council has appealed to householders in the county to conserve drinking water.

All schools on the city's northside will be closed, and all lectures at University College Cork cancelled for the coming week.

Problems were caused by the volume of water passing through Inniscarra dam, owned by the Electricity Service Board.

The ESB said it had to release significant amounts of water downstream of the dam because at one point it was dealing with up to eight times the amount of water that it normally handles.

It says flooding downstream of the Inniscarra dam was inevitable under the circumstances.

Trade unions said a public sector strike planned for Tuesday, in protest at government pay cuts, would be cancelled in areas worst hit by the flooding.

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