lax_flood

08/11/19

LESSONS MUST BE LEARNED

The recent, shocking flooding in Lower Laxey has left a significant number of the village residents in a state of serious hardship. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused and it will be upwards of six months before many will return to any sense of normality.

The community spirit shown in the wake of the incident has been heartwarming, but the questions raised by the flood suggest plenty could have been done to negate the effects of the torrential downpour that triggered the chain of events along Glen Road.

Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, has vowed to do everything possible to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen in the future, and Chairman of Manx Utilities, Dr Alex Allinson, issued the people of the village with an unreserved apology, and a pledge to do better. 

The people of Laxey deserve better than what they have had from government in recent times. Glen Road had flooded in the recent past. Few people will forget the image of a double-decker bus sinking into the river as the old Laxey Harbour Bridge succumbed to a raging torrent in December 2015. It was fortunate that the incident didn’t result in loss of life. Despite this potentially horrific collapse some obvious measures to reduce the chances of a future catastrophic floods were never implemented. 

In this latest incident the disused sluice gate, adjacent to the Woollen Mills, that had been identified years ago by local residents as a potential flood hazard, acted as a dam to fallen trees that had been driven downriver by floodwater. Furthermore a large gap in the wall, that had been created to enable work to be carried out on a weir, proved disastrous, enabling thousands of tons of water to divert onto the upper Glen Road – helped by the presence of a stranded digger just below the hole.

Many of the problems faced by lower Laxey begin high above, and on both sides of the valley, where water run off from fields cascades onto roads that connect with the village. Many of the old land drains, some of which are made up of small 12inch pipes, have become totally blocked, and even when cleared can be totally overwhelmed by sudden heavy downpours.

An announcement by the Chief Minister of an independent review is welcomed, and it is hoped that the final recommendations when they are made are actioned upon, rather than shelved because of budgetary constraints. It is also hoped that the person charged with carrying out the review taps into the huge body of local knowledge held by local farmers and landowners when formulating his report. In the meantime it is encouraging to see work has progressed with some urgency to negate the chances of the river bursting its banks again. A new floodwall is already under construction, and some 600 tonnes of debris has been removed from the river. Also several trees fringing the river further upstream have been trimmed or removed.

For those people whose homes were under six feet of water it will be all look like too little, too late. But at least it seems government is finally taking the threat of further flooding seriously.  

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