College have shut down, roads are closed, plane-landings are being diverted, and even rats are fleeing their burrows as Ireland struggles to cope with what the Minister for the Environment has called the worst flooding in 800 years.

And the waters are still rising.

In Cork the River Lee burst its banks, and thousands of families have been left without drinking water, according to an Irish Times report. The south and west of the country have been especially hard hit, but all areas are affected.

The Irish government has put together an emergency committee to deal with the flooding. But opposition Ministers have criticized the 12 million euro emergency fund which the government is promising, according to an article in the Irish Independent yesterday, saying that it is not enough.

Charities and aid organizations are helping out, in what has become a major humanitarian effort. The Irish Red Cross is seeking donations to help those who’ve been forced to leave their homes, and is distributing meals and blankets to people in Cork, Galway, Tipperary and Waterford. 

"This is an appalling catastrophe for the people whose homes, livelihoods and lives have been destroyed or damaged by these floods," said Irish Red Cross Vice-Chairman, Tony Lawlor, in a statement.

The damage that has already been done is huge.

Because of continued flooding, officials have closed University College Cork until November 30th. Students have been forced out of sodden accommodation, and the university is looking for temporary housing for both them and their teachers – the flood waters have ruined the offices of at least 500 university staff, destroying costly laboratory equipment and irreplaceable research files.

A statement on the university’s website says, “It is anticipated that the effects of the flood will extend for many months and full recovery will not be possible until well into 2010.”

In county Galway, 150 houses lost access to electricity, when the Electricity Supply Board turned off power for safety reasons, according to RTE.

Perhaps worst of all, Irish homes now face an invasion of rats and other rodents. Pest control firm Rentokil said there’s was a baby boom amongst Ireland’s rat population earlier this year.  A Rentokil spokesman told the Irish Times that floodwaters tend to push rodents out of their own habitats and into human homes, so Irish householders should prepare for an influx of unwelcome visitors.

Today’s weather forecast on Ireland’s Meteorological Service, does not bode much better: “Showers fairly widespread and heavy across western counties, with some hail and thunder in places. A cold, windy night.”