Derry families left homeless by storm pleased to be given keys to new abode
Seven weeks after torrential storms left a Co Londonderry family homeless, they have a place to call their own at last.
Keith and Carol O'Hara were among the first of 11 families from the Eglinton to move into mobile homes hired by the Housing Executive as temporary accommodation until their own homes are habitable again.
Over the past few weeks construction workers have cleared a site at St Canice's Park and wired, plumbed and anchored the two and three bedroom mobile homes.
As each family arrived, along with keys they were also given a starter pack of microwave oven, kettle, toaster, kitchen crockery and cutlery and complete sets of bedding.
Mr and Mrs O'Hara, who were left with nothing after the floodwater raged through their home, said that yesterday was the first time they have had a reason to smile since August.
Mr O'Hara said: "It is a huge relief to be here, we have been staying with family and although they have been brilliant we also felt we were a burden.
"We took over their living room and disrupted their lives, so to have somewhere where we can be relaxed and not have to feel you are imposing on anyone is incredible.
"The Housing Executive has thought of everything, it has provided a pack that includes everything you need for the kitchen and bedrooms.
"When we walked in, it was like walking into a five-star hotel room. There is so much space - we will be able to stay here easily until our own home is ready again."
The needs of Mr and Mrs O'Hara's daughter Caoimhe (20), who has autism, were paramount for them, and Mrs O'Hara commended the staff at the Housing Executive for taking these into account.
Mrs O'Hara explained: "Caoimhe has struggled so much being away from her own home and her own things and has noise and sensory issues.
"Her autism means she finds it difficult being in social situations and she was not looking forward to moving into a mobile home, but she will have her own bedroom again.
"The stress of these past seven weeks have taken its toll on all of us, but even if our home isn't ready by Christmas - which we think is likely - it won't be too bad because we have somewhere to cook, put up a Christmas tree and have our own Christmas."
Across the way, the Cowan family were also excited to have a space of their own.
Jacqueline Cowan along with her three daughters and one son will share a three-bedroom mobile home until their own home in Dunverne Gardens is fit for them to return to.
Daughter Debbie Cowan said this was their fourth move since August.
"After the flood we were moved into student accommodation at Magee campus, then we were moved into dormitories at St Columb's Park House, before moving again to stay with relatives, so to have somewhere back in the village is just great," she said.
"Everything in our own house and even the garden shed had to go into a skip, so we were left with nothing. People have been so good, but to be back in the village is fantastic because it means we can go back and forward to our own house to see how things are going there.
"I was really pleased when we got the keys and got a look inside the mobile home, there will be five of us living here, so it will be tight, but at least it is our own space."
Eddie Doherty, area manager for the Housing Executive, approved the hiring of the mobile homes.
He said: "These mobile homes are finished to very high standard and they are right in the heart of the village for the 11 families, whose needs meant they had to remain in Eglinton whether that was for medical reasons or to be near schools.
"We have been working on this site for the last three weeks and are delighted to be able to hand over the keys now."