‘Immersed in a lake that won’t go away’

It may be mid-summer, but a round-the-clock flood-relief effort continues at Mary O’Meara’s house at Balla, Rahara.

  Thousands of sandbags are gathered around her house, preventing the water from entering the property. The surrounding land resembles a lake.

  Several pumps are operating outside, manned by an army of neighbours, friends and work colleagues on a rota basis. On Tuesday afternoon, James McKeon, a neighbour, was on duty, sheltering from a downpour of rain in a portacabin to the front of the house. This is misery in mid-summer.

  As Mary makes a cup of tea inside, she sifts through the pump rota and counts that between 34 to 36 people are rostered this week.  The pumps are provided by Roscommon County Council and the Office of Public Works, but it is up to volunteers to man them.

  This has been the site at Mary’s house since January 29th when the sandbags were first installed, and the crisis has wreaked havoc with the household.

  For the past six weeks or so, Mary and her two children, Áine (15) and Brendan (18), have effectively moved house to Knockcroghery. Her husband, Rory, spends the nights at the Rahara house, for security reasons.

  “It was at its highest point at the very end of March/early April,” Mary said. “The children and I left five or six weeks ago because the sandbags breached out there. The earth breached and the water started to rise.

  “Essentially, people started to evacuate us, so we went to a friend’s house. We are still there.”

  The ordeal has been compounded by Brendan sitting the Leaving Cert.

  Mary has been living in this house at Rahara since 1971. Asked if flooding had ever been as bad as this, she said: “Never, ever.”

  The worrying thing about this flood is that there is no end in sight.

  “At least the other floods came and went,” Mary, who works as a nurse in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, said. “Sometimes, I don’t even refer to it as a flood; I refer to it as being immersed in a lake that won’t go away.”