Few places escaped the disruptive effect of Saturday’s all-day downpours as roads in towns and countryside across Northern Ireland were closed.
During the worst of Saturday’s rain, motorists in parts of Belfast and Co Down had to abandon their cars when faced with severely flooded roads. Rivers burst their banks and bridges were swept away in many areas. The Lurgan Cahone Road in Rathfriland was still closed yesterday after a bridge collapsed.
Belfast’s new Broadway Underpass — welcomed for banishing the traffic nightmares of thousands of commuters when it opened ahead of schedule earlier this summer — was closed after being submerged in about 20 million gallons of water.
Police said the Westlink would be closed in both directions until at least today as a result, a closure expected to bring traffic chaos for commuters. The Roads Service said contingency plans would be put in place — but motorists were urged to use alternative routes.
Fire and rescue service workers battled to get rid of the water in the underpass yesterday, pumping 7,000 litres a minute and as the floods receded, cars which had been abandoned came into view.
SDLP councillor Tim Attwood commended the efforts of emergency services for their hard work at the underpass — but said the flooding of the underpass should not be repeated.
“The teams of workers from the emergency services, Northern Ireland Water, the Roads Service and the Rivers Agency need to be congratulated for their tireless efforts in helping people and tackling the floods yesterday.
“However the Roads Service has serious questions to answer about how the new Westlink Underpass could flood so quickly.
“The Roads Service will have to explain how this could happen and what steps they are going to ensure that it does not happen again,” he said.
Alliance Party Assembly member Kieran McCarthy accused the Executive of lacking an effective floods strategy.
“Given the extent of the flooding last year one would have hoped that the Executive would have formulated a stronger strategy to deal with flooding, alarmingly, it appears that they did not.”
He said that you only had to look at our roads and in people’s homes to see that the Executive are no better prepared this year.
Those motorists who were fortunate enough not to have become stuck in floods had other headaches on Saturday.
Many spent hours circling towns and cities in the hope of figuring out a flood-free route to their destination.
Others setting out witnessed the difficulties of others ahead of them and simply turned back as journeys took twice as long as expected if undertaken at all.
But while sunshine returned to Northern Ireland yesterday as respite from the rain — there was no sunshine in the hearts of those who bore the brunt of the rain.
In rural areas of Co Armagh, farmers surveyed waterlogged crops and meadows with dismay and the USPCA reported the deaths of many flood-hit livestock.
For road closures information, visit www.trafficwatchni.com or phone 08457 123321.