FLOOD relief plans are set to be fast-tracked in some of Ireland's most vulnerable river valleys, but heavy rain is expected to swamp more areas in the coming days.
The Department of Environment, the Office of Public Works and the Department of Finance are to examine ways of accelerating flood projects as Ireland's clean-up bill for the nationwide series of floods last week continues to spiral.
In Cork alone, the clean-up and damages bills for the floods are put at an estimated €10m, and that is unlikely to be the final bill as a storm may yet sweep across the country later this week.
"The weather will stay in a very unsettled mode, there's no sign of a let-up really," a Met Eireann forecaster said yesterday. "The southern half of England I expect to be flooded out tomorrow morning but the very worst of that will probably pass the south of Ireland.
"Unfortunately, some will hit hard tonight in south Munster and south Leinster, and these are the areas worst affected from recent rains and things could get worse there.
Blustery showers are predicted for today and tomorrow, but during Thursday and Friday the weather is set to get even worse.
"It could turn stormy in places across the country," the forecaster said. "Rain is likely to be very widespread and it could exacerbate the existing flooding."
Junior Finance Minister Noel Ahern, who is responsible for the OPW, has admitted that accelerated progress now needs to be achieved with flood plans.
Mr Ahern dismissed opposition party claims that under-funding has been responsible for the painfully slow progress to date.
In north Cork, a flood relief plan for the Blackwater valley was unveiled in 2005 but only partial works have been undertaken in Mallow to date.
None of these works were able to prevent the flooding which last week left parts of the town under 10ft of water.
The full flood relief programme is not expected to be completed for two years.
In Fermoy, no work has been undertaken to date.
Environment Minister John Gormley acknowledged that flood relief plans need to be accelerated. Mr Gormley stressed that while Mr Ahern will co-ordinate the OPW flood relief plans, his department will focus on ways of expediting various flood reports and studies.
Jason O'Brien and Ralph Reigel