Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Disabled and vulnerable flee in alarm as 100 homes evacuated

A police forensic officer examines the van which contained the four mortar tubes
A police forensic officer examines the van which contained the four mortar tubes

Residents have told of their horror that primed mortar bombs destined for Londonderry's city centre were intercepted just yards from their homes.

Disabled people and vulnerable adults from a sheltered housing complex were among those evacuated from more than 100 houses across the Brandywell area on Sunday night.

In one incident during the operation ambulance staff had to help a double amputee.

Families with young children were also forced to flee.

Many of the residents were able to contact relatives and friends and spend the night with them.

Others, however, including a number of vulnerable people, were taken to Brooke Park Leisure Centre and later provided with accommodation in the Tower Hotel.

Two men were only moved out at around 9am on Monday after sleeping through the alert.

One was found wandering through the cordoned off area and a second man was still in his flat.

There were fears that others had left without their daily medication, but everyone was eventually accounted for on Monday.

Some of those affected expressed anger that anyone would consider driving bombs through a built-up area.

They warned that a scene of carnage could have unfolded if the bombs had gone off.

Some evacuated residents watched the operation on Monday from various cordons as they waited to get back home.

One of them, a mother-of-three, said the alert had caused massive disruption and left people terrified.

"We were put out at 8pm and we had to rely on family. We were up with my sister, but really there's nobody can take in so many people.

"I'm trying to keep in contact with my work.

"I can't get my uniform and I'm telling them if I get into the house I'll come back later.

"My wains had to miss school today. The whole thing is disgraceful." She added: "It would scare the life out of you. For some reason I always have visions of Foyleside getting blown up.

"Even at the weekend we were all over with the Annie world record... you were afraid standing over there that they might try something.

"I think a lot of people think they are going to try something bad during the City of Culture year, that something bad is going to happen in this town.

"It is just so scary. You want to give your wains a bit of freedom but you just don't know what could happen."

Another resident, Lawrence Moore, described how the alert unfolded and spoke of how his young son was mesmerised by an operation that was all too familiar to an older generation.

He said: "Army bomb diposal officers arrived and said to evacuate as they were taking no chances.

"My wee lad of 12 had never seen anything like this before.

"We had seen it ourselves growing up but this was the first time and it was very real for the children here, and that was almost surreal. It was more the inconvenience people were upset about. Nobody was really dwelling on the political overtones.

"We weren't so bad because we had the car and could go the back road to Creggan and we have somewhere to go, but there were people living on Old City Court sheltered housing, some older, some disabled, and for them it was more difficult."

Among those evacuated were 71 families from Habinteg Housing's Old City Court and Old City Close, a mixed development of general needs social housing and specialist housing for people in wheelchairs, the elderly and vulnerable adults. Habinteg north west area manager Paul Kerr said on Monday that some vulnerable residents had been left very distressed.

He said: "Some of them were very disorientated when they had to leave their flats.

"It was all very upsetting for them.

"Staff said there were a number of people very shocked by the situation."

He added: "Two people were found this morning who had been missed.

"They slept through it all.

"They are okay and we got them out this morning. People had banged their doors but they had heard nothing."

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