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EXPRESS EXCLUSIVE: Mountmellick family still living in emergency hotel show the flood damage in their home

“I was sick in the run-up to the flooding and generally not in great form, next thing the floods came. I am just barely back on my feet now"

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan


The Keenan family from Mountmellick are still living in emergency accommodation after their home was flooded on November 22.

Eighteen days after the flood hit, Donal and Cheryl Keenan along with their 22 year old twin daughters are still living out of a hotel room in Portlaoise provided by Laois County Council.

The family is due to move out of the emergency accommodation into temporary accommodation on Tuesday, December 12.

This will see the Mountmellick family moving into a house in Portlaoise, provided by Cluid Housing, a not-for-profit housing organisation .

Donal and Cheryl will have to pay a subsidised rent in this new house, they do not know how much it will cost.

It is likely they will stay in this house until their home on Manor Road, Mountmellick is gutted and fixed up but they are eager to return to their home.

The Leinster Express visited Donal and Cheryl in their home on Saturday, December 9 with volunteers from the Mountmellick Flood Community Support group.

The video above shows the current condition of the Keenan’s home on Manor Road. Everything you can see inside this house has been contaminated and needs to be removed.

Both Donal and Cheryl have been in bad health recently with Donal only out of hospital and Cheryl considering going to A&E as her bronchial asthma worsens.

The family visits the house regularly. A number of complications have stopped them from making any progress with getting the house back to its original condition.

There are problems with the boiler, the heating cannot be turned on, the fire cannot be lit and they are still using two dehumidifiers to try and dry out the walls. They are in need of more dehumidifiers, the house is unbearably cold and damp.

“We come here every day for a couple of hours to do bits and pieces. We spend as little time as we can [in the house], I was sick in hospital in the run up to the flooding, I stayed here three nights after the flooding which contributed to my stay in hospital ,” Donal said.

“If the plumbing is fixed it means I can light a back boiler and I can heat up the house. I have a bit of turf out in the shed, happy days.

“We all know there is heavy snow forecast, we all know we are going to be temporarily grounded so we don’t know what is on the other side of the snow.

“There was between seven and 10 inches of water at its height so all of the kitchen cupboards are starting to swell and not close. It is the delayed damage that I am starting to see now. You are talking dishwasher, washing machine, fridge freezer. Everything that the water touched is contaminated.

“I was sick in the run-up to the flooding and generally not in great form, next thing the floods came. I am just barely back on my feet now, I was in hospital . I am only coming to grips with the aftermath of being in hospital and what is going on here but I am very heartened by your [Mountmellick Flood Community Support] contribution,” he said.

Donal and Cheryl own the house which they could not get insurance cover for.

“I can’t get insurance it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be insured. I can’t get flood cover which is what I need because of past history.

Donal spoke about the “Magnificent Seven”, a group of seven families whose homes he says have been “subjected to flooding” back as far as 1968.

“On Christmas Eve of ‘68 and indeed Christmas Day was the same as last Wednesday fortnight.

“I can also think back to dates in 1989, 1990 and 1991, three years one after the other, I remember 2010 when my neighbour was flooded in August. He is one of the famous Magnificent Seven.

“Fast forward to now and I have a new committee with over 60 houses affected so the little Magnificent Seven has grown and quite frankly unless there is major, major work done with the rivers this is going to reoccur.

“Our guard is down, I understand that three of the major rivers burst their banks which means that if we have a sample of the rain that we had last Wednesday fortnight it has a direct run and we are wide open.

“I don’t expect people to get out with machines over Christmas and clean up but they had ample time all down the years,” Donal said.

Donal praised Laois County Council and in particular Cllr Paddy Bracken for their help since the recent flood.

“They have been very good. Councillor Paddy Bracken is contacting us almost on a four or five hourly basis . He has worked tirelessly for us. Paddy Bracken has come to us here 110 percent. There was something about checking out of the hotel and Paddy was on the phone to the hotel straight away,” Donal said.

Donal said that Cllr Bracken has organised the move from the hotel to the new house in Portlaoise. The family will move into the new house on Tuesday.

“We have been given a Cluid house with no furniture or anything in it, no cooker in it no washing machine but they hope to kit it out within the next couple of days,” Cheryl said.

Donal described life in emergency accommodation.

“When you are next to homeless and you are offered emergency accommodation, a hotel is second heaven.

“We are over there in a dry room, we have our showers we have our breakfast and we are out the door, happy days. We are being treated A1, 100%. It may not be home but it is better than a tent in County Hall and I am very grateful,” he said.

“I would like to get out of emergency accommodation, I don’t want to put any pressure on Cluid but we are so pleased to go back to that hotel tonight.

“The Council representative Paddy Bracken, hats off to him. He is hands on. Paddy is getting us out of emergency accommodation and into a house and we are going with the flow,” he said.

Cheryl is in bad health and spending time in the damp house is worsening her condition.

“I have bronchial asthma, I have had it for five years now and it gets worse when the weather is damp. I can’t take my nebulizer, it is contaminated, I bought the one I had in Aldi, I need to buy another one,” Cheryl said.

Inside the house was colder than outside on Saturday, December 9 when temperatures were around four degrees. While they try to remain in good spirits and are grateful for the help, this family is in deep distress. Between their illnesses, the loss of all of their belongings and spending almost three weeks out of their home completely unsettled, they need help getting their lives back to normal.

They are now one of over 60 households receiving help from the Mountmellick Flood Community Support group which has raised over €10,000 in donations.

Chanele Kavanagh and her husband Darren from the voluntary group touched base with this family on Saturday to begin the work that needs to be done to get their house back.

The committee is in desperate need of help from labourers , businesses, furniture donations and a helping hand when it comes to transporting large furniture like beds, couches, and tables that have been kindly donated.

They have already been able to replace floors, deliver couches and are working hard to help with plumbing, electrics, clearing out houses and organising people like the Keenan’s who are distressed and in need of help.

Chanele , Darren, and other volunteers are working around the clock to find out what people need and get things done. They talk to people affected by the flood and figure out the first move that needs to be made to get families back into their homes.

They are desperate for more people to help them to collect and deliver furniture, lay floors, carry out electrical work and other jobs.

Joe Larkin was elected Chairperson of the group and he also visited the families. The voluntary group is determined to get at least one room of the Keenan’s home fixed before Christmas.

Speaking to Chanele Kavanagh who lives in Mountmellick but her house was not flooded, she said that she cannot sit around while people in the town are in these desperate situations.

“It is exhausting, upsetting, I am very angry, it is more confusion I can’t understand how people won’t get out and help. Nearly three weeks on people shouldn’t be in their homes like this, insurance companies have a hell of a lot to answer for between not answering people and leaving them in limbo.

“I will be happy if I can get every family affected one room sorted so they can be at home for Christmas.

“We are looking at 60+ houses, they are not all as bad as what we have seen today but they are still all affected and that family shouldn’t be in a hotel, the woman is not well. We need more donations of furniture and flooring, we need more people to get out and give us a hand delivering, handymen.

“The televisions are gone now but these people are living with the aftermath of this. Mental health issues are coming in now because you can fix and you can replace things but the trauma that people have suffered is unbelievable.

“I myself wasn’t hit but I am not the type of person that can sit back and watch it happen and that's why I want to help and I will keep helping until I know the last person has at least one room in their home.

“Floodgates should be home on every home that has been affected,” Chanele said.

Mountmellick Flood Community Support group is currently aware of 63 houses that have been hit by the flood. The group received phone calls from five new houses on Friday. 

If you can help the group with any kind of labour or if you have a van and can spare some time get in touch with Chanele 0894834225.

Edel Watchorne is the Treasurer of the Mountmellick Flood Community Support group and she explained how the funds raised will be distributed.

“What we plan on doing is offering everybody a standard payment so what we are going to do is not means test it but per household and per occupant so that seems like the fairest way.

“We don’t actually know what we have in the account at the moment but we are going to allocate for example 50 percent of that for standard payments, 25 percent aside for emergencies and 25 percent for people who haven’t got insurance and stuff like that.

“Somebody from St. Vincent de Paul said that they have an allocation of money for emergencies if people need help with oil or bills.

“Somebody came into me here last night in the shop and they said that they are not badly off but they could do with a few bob for Christmas because their money is going on this prepay power running the dehumidifiers. This is an unexpected expense this is something they didn’t anticipate coming up to Christmas.

“We have asked everybody who has carried out a fundraiser to lodge the money into the account by next week so we can count it and then we will know how much we have.

“Some people have said they don’t want the money and it is up to them if they want to take it or not. They can hand it back or lodge it back into the account themselves. Some people still don’t know we are here so it is important to get the word out,” she said.

WATCH: Mountmellick under water as people are evacuated from homes and businesses are flooded.

Mountmellick woman in USA for 53 years donates $4,000 to flood victims.