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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Gemma O'Leary Gemma O'Leary's garden after it was flooded on Monday
Co Kilkenny

'Everything is damaged': Pregnant woman tells of being rescued from her flooded home

A Status Orange rain warning was in place for Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford on Monday.

“IT’S SHOCKING, THERE are no other words to describe it.” 

On Monday, pregnant woman Gemma O’Leary had to be rescued from her home in Co Kilkenny by firefighters after the ground floor was submerged in flood waters following heavy rain. 

A Status Orange rain warning was in place for Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford on Monday and many homes and businesses were destroyed as a result of severe flooding. 

This came after parts of Cork last week experienced knee-high flooding due to heavy rainfall from Storm Babet, particularly the town of Midleton.

O’Leary and her husband live in Ferrybank in Co Kilkenny, across the River Suir from Waterford city. 

The couple were at home together when the Status Orange rain warning was in place on Monday. 

“The weather was atrocious,” she said. 

“We have a little stream bordering our property and it was high, but it was handling the floodwaters and then the rain stopped and we were looking at Met Éireann and it looked like that was the end of it,” O’Leary said. 

However, she explained that water suddenly began rushing down the road. As this met with the stream water, floodwater began pushing into their driveway. 

“Literally, in 15 minutes it rose three feet outside and two feet inside or house,” O’Leary said. 

“I took the two dogs and went upstairs. I didn’t have time to save a thing. Everything was destroyed.” 

She said that “it looked like we were in the middle of a lake”. 

O’Leary is just nine weeks away from her due date. 

As a result, a decision was made for her to stay put upstairs in the home until the fire services arrived to escort her to safety. 

“They just felt that for the safety of the baby and for myself that it was best that I get escorted out. The firemen came fairly quickly, actually,” O’Leary said.

As the floodwater was so deep, the fire truck was unable to get to the house. Instead, the firefighters had to use a digger from a neighbour to make their way to the home. 

The couple are now living in a holiday let currently as they won’t be able to return to live in the property for “at least three weeks”. 

“We’re trying to get a new kitchen in before Christmas,” O’Leary said. 

“Everything is damaged. A lot of the new baby stuff, the couch, all of our furniture. We have to gut the walls, we have to take down the insulation and the plaster board of the walls to dry it out.”

Screenshot 2023-10-27 114226 Gemma O'Leary O'Leary's kitchen after her home was flooded on Monday Gemma O'Leary

Speaking of her thoughts as her home was being flooded, O’Leary said it was “surreal” and she was “in shock”. 

“When you see the water just rushing into your home and you have absolutely no control, it’s shocking, there are no other words … devastating,” she said. 

“And throwing out your things, that’s very upsetting. It’s only things at the end of the day but when you have a baby on the way you want everything to be perfect for the arrival.” 

The couple are currently in the process of engaging with their insurance company to figure out how much of the damage will be covered. 

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed further funding of €3 million for people affected by Storm Babet. 

The Humanitarian Assistance Scheme will provide flood relief for small businesses, as well as sporting and voluntary organisations, that were affected by the storm.

The scheme was activated on 19 October to support households in Cork City and County and West Waterford, including Cork City, Midleton, Youghal, Castletownbere, Mallow, Tallow and Dungarvan and other affected areas.

In addition, Cabinet approval was given to increase the income limits for the scheme with immediate effect. Income limits will now be increased from:

  • €30,000 to €50,000 for a single person;
  • €50,000 to €90,000 for a couple;
  • €10,000 to €15,000 per dependent child.

Where a family has a household income over the income limit, a reduced or tapered level of support may be provided.

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The risk of flooding is expected to become more frequent and more intense as climate change destabilises Ireland’s weather systems.

The Climate Action Plan 2023 outlined that the “most immediate risks to Ireland from climate change are predominantly those associated with changes in extremes, such as floods, droughts, and storms”.

When asked if she is concerned at the prospect of her home being flooded again in the future, O’Leary said: “Yes, very much. We all know that climate change is changing the weather systems and if it’s happened once it can definitely happen again. 

“There’s no record of flooding in our home previously, so I am worried for sure, the anxiety is there.”

She said however, that she has heard from the county council that there may be funding available to divert water and not let this happen again. 

“I hope that this isn’t just lip service.” 

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