A BRAND-new €22m central library in Cork will not open until summer, after it was flooded on the eve of its grand opening.

Cork County Council has played down criticisms that the library should not have been built at basement level; the flooding caused over €1m worth of damage.

Insurance claims are now being prepared after the River Lee broke its banks and destroyed two floors of the library as well as the main County Hall building. The rest of the six-storey library building is still in use.

A spokesman denied claims that irreplaceable archive material was destroyed in the flood, saying that only new books and material being circulated among other libraries was affected.

He added that the County Hall building had never been flooded by the Lee before, so there was no reason to suspect that adding a basement level to the new building would have led to problems.

However, a council source said: "It was described as being like the aftermath of a tsunami. There were books stuck to the ceiling. It was like a goldfish bowl. The big question now is that, with a history of flooding on the Lee field, why on earth would you put anything in the basement? In Cork County Council, all of the basements and ground floor were destroyed. On the ground floor there is a planning department and there were files that were water-damaged but I think they are being dried out now."

The spokesman said any files destroyed had already been duplicated. He would not comment on the cost of the damage during the preparation of an insurance claim but sources have said it is likely to be in excess of €1m.

Staff at County Hall were moved to rented accommodation while many were instructed to work from home.