Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Ministers try to calm floods anger

A bus driver drives through flood water in the Twinbrook estate in Lisburn
A bus driver drives through flood water in the Twinbrook estate in Lisburn
Council workers try to clear blocked drains as flood water settles in the Twinbrook estate in Lisburn
A motorist drives through flood water in the Twinbrook estate in Lisburn

Political leaders in Northern Ireland have tried to calm public anger over the handling of flash floods that swamped large parts of Belfast.

Further downpours are forecast as thousands struggle to clean up damage already caused by overnight flooding across the city and parts of County Antrim.

Danny Kennedy, the minister responsible for the roads and water system, said infrastructure was simply overwhelmed by the deluge. "I have seen first-hand the misery caused as well as the work that is ongoing to deal with the situation," he said.

The minister said all possible action to alleviate the crisis was being taken but he added: "Agencies remain in a state of high alert to respond to any further flooding events. Unfortunately, we cannot prevent heavy rain and cannot guarantee that there will be no further flooding."

Stormont has alerted local government emergency response teams across Northern Ireland to deal with any further flooding.

First Minister Peter Robinson, who witnessed the efforts to deal with flooding, admitted he was aware of complaints from the public and said Mr Kennedy should report back to the Executive for a full ministerial discussion on the lessons to be learned.

Emergency services reported receiving more than 700 call-outs linked to flooding in greater Belfast while the region's water authority said it handled nearly 3,000 flood calls. In addition, 1,000 homes were hit by power cuts.

Major roads were left impassable at the height of the crisis while scenes of rising sewage water flooding homes sparked complaints that government agencies were slow to respond.

Mr Kennedy added: "Roads Service retains stocks of sandbags, which can be distributed to those in need when we attend flooding incidents, or through the local councils.

"I urge people to exercise caution when travelling and to take measures to help protect their properties. Advice can be obtained from local authorities and NI Direct websites. If people spot blocked gullies or drains they should report them to their local Roads Service Section Office."

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