Farmer Daniel O'Donnell says that 90 per cent of his land nearby is under water and that he has lost 600 bales of feed, and he has no idea how he will feed his cattle between now and next spring. His family's welfare is at risk and he knows 30-40 families in the same situation. “We have been offered nothing here,” he says.
Exhausted after 10 days of emergency work with farmers, Silke's face reddens and tears come to his eyes as he says: “The human suffering is being replicated all the way up and down the Shannon” on hundreds of farms. “We are at breaking point. We can take no more. I've spent 10 years trying to get something done and, apart from a pilot project in 2007, where as far as I could see they took a few rotten trees from the Shannon, there has been nothing done.”
He believes the cause of the flooding is that the Shannon, which he says has become silted with billions of tons of peat from the run-off of Bord na Móna bogs, is not being properly managed by the six bodies that are jointly responsible for it: “If the waters were properly managed in the three lakes, we would not have the flooding we are having at the minute.”
About 60km (37 miles) away in Skehanagh, Peterswell, near Gort, stranded farmer Michael Morgan (62), who lives alone, has been unable for three days to leave the low island on which his house stands, surrounded by water as far as the eye can see.
Neighbours have waded 400m through dangerously rushing water to reach him with food and support, but they have been unable to get food to his cattle because they have been unable to obtain a helicopter to lift bales of hay and drop them, and the route has been too dangerous by boat.
Another 15 farmers are trapped like this in the small area around Gort, which was impassable yesterday, making it impossible for children to get to the schoolhouse only 2km (1.2 miles) away, because to do so would require a 104km round-trip via twisty detours.
The road to Morgan's house has become a rushing metre-deep river, destroying houses along the way, as run-off from the Slieve Aughty mountains spills into the valley, lifting the black plastic bales of silage like soccer balls and floating them from field to field as it destroys them.
It's hard to walk against the current on the road, which has become a river. It was dry on Tuesday morning and has never flooded before.
“It happened overnight,” says a shocked Anne Flanagan, whose beautiful seven-year-old house, on land that has never before flooded, is destroyed, and who feared for the lives of her brother and teenage son as they worked through two long nights on Tuesday and Wednesday in an attempt to stave off disaster.
But, by yesterday afternoon, the road had become rapids with a strong current and cascading waterfalls. “We need EU funding to rehouse people. There are six to 10 families in this area alone that are homeless now,” says neighbour Aidan Holland. No State agency has come forward to assess the needs of these homeless people, or to offer support. “We were critical of the US over Hurricane Katrina – but the same thing is happening here,” says Anne. “Thank you for coming here and seeing this. Please tell the world because no one is listening to us.”