Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen has described the Government’s response to the recent bad weather and flooding as woeful. Thousands of people have been affected with heavy rain and high tides taking their toll on counties Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Limerick, Clare, Waterford, Galway, Mayo and Donegal.
Deputy Cowen said: “Homes and business across Munster, the North West and parts of the East coast of the country have been devastated by flooding as a result of high tides and heavy rain. Emergency service workers are doing a great job in very difficult circumstances but the Government’s response has been non-existent. The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning should immediately be convened to assess the damage and co-ordinate a multi-agency response as more flooding is expected.
“In London the Environment Secretary has called a meeting of the powerful COBRA Committee to lead the response there while our Ministers are missing in action. In previous years the Task Force on Emergency Planning met regularly to respond to snow and freezing weather conditions. However this year, despite Defence Minister Alan Shatter and Environment Minister Phil Hogan launching a ‘Be Winter-Ready’ campaign the government doesn’t seem to have taken any notice of warnings issued by Met Éireann.
“I believe the impact of the flooding that has hit huge parts of the country, and with more expected, constitutes a “major emergency”. Government’s own definition of a major emergency is “any event which, usually with little or no warning, causes or threatens injury or death, serious disruption of essential services or damage to property, the environment or infrastructure beyond the normal capabilities of the principal emergency services.”
“Frontline emergency workers and local authority staff are under huge pressure with these conditions and in line with the official protocols additional resources should be mobilised and co-ordinated from the National Emergency Coordination Centre. The damage caused by these floods will likely run to millions of euro along with lost revenue for businesses. The Government needs to step up the mark and has utterly failed to do so to date.”
The Framework for Major Emergency Management states:
During the flooding and severe cold weather that occurred between November 2009 and January 2010, the Principal Response Agencies (An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive and the Local Authorities – the PRAs) in many parts of the country responded effectively, using the co-ordination structures and procedures set out in the Framework for Major Emergency Management.
This response included the establishment of Crisis Management Teams, to co-ordinate efforts within each agency, and the activation of Local Co-ordination Groups, to co-ordinate efforts across the PRAs as well as between the PRAs and relevant external organisations, such as the Office of Public Works (OPW), the ESB, the Defence Forces, the Coast Guard and the Voluntary Emergency Services.
In the aftermath of these events there was agreement that, although there was extensive guidance available in the Framework documents, there was a need for specific guidance in relation to Severe Weather Events, which occur over a wide area and last for an extended period of time and, as a result, create unique problems for all responding organisations.
Experience shows that Ireland is threatened by different types of severe weather including:
- Heavy Snow
- Severe Winds