Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Sisters left trapped by snow for 14 days

Gretta and May Henderson at their Carnhill Road home in Newtownabbey where they were snowed in for two weeks and had to rely on neighbours for food deliveries
Gretta and May Henderson at their Carnhill Road home in Newtownabbey where they were snowed in for two weeks and had to rely on neighbours for food deliveries

Elderly sisters who were trapped in their house for a fortnight because of snow and ice have spoken of their isolation.

Gretta and May Henderson, who are both in their 80s, found themselves entirely reliant on neighbours in the fortnight that followed the spring blizzard across Northern Ireland's east coast.

With no postal service since March 21 and a haphazard bin collection service, life as they know it has ground to a halt.

"We are just a forgotten society," the women told the Belfast Telegraph in their Carnhill Road home in Newtownabbey.

Mounds of packed snow – which had been 10ft deep – still lined the footpath on Carnhill Road yesterday, just a few miles from Belfast city centre.

The only delivery which hasn't stopped is their daily Belfast Telegraph newspaper.

Gretta, who contacted the Belfast Telegraph, had a simple message to the local council and the Roads Service: "Get out and make the roads that you could walk on them," she said.

"We have never seen a gritter here. But we are paying our rates."

The speed with which their situation deteriorated has unnerved the women.

"I cannot believe that this has happened. It's crazy," Gretta said. "It shakes you up."

As their food reserves dwindled last week, the women found they could not get out their back door. Gretta said: "We have not been able to get out to the village, so neighbours brought us food – essentials. They have been absolutely brilliant."

A spokeswoman for Newtownabbey Borough Council said someone from the local authority will visit the women today.

She added that normal bin collections are expected to resume by Saturday.

Newtownabbey's mayor, Victor Robinson, said that he was proud of council workers, but added: "Of course more could be done and indeed should be done, but this will require more resources being made available."

A spokeswoman for the Roads Service said that while it grits the main road network, it has no responsibility for gritting footpaths.

"Roads Service will make salt and grit available (free) to councils and supply manpower, where resources permit," she added.

Royal Mail apologised to customers who have yet to receive mail, adding that normal service will return in the coming days.

More could have been done, but I'm so proud of our workers

By Victor Robinson

Over the past number of weeks Northern Ireland has faced unprecedented weather which has left many thousands of residents confined to their homes unable to get their children to school, visit the elderly, go to work or indeed do essential shopping.

In some cases households were left without electricity or fuel to heat their homes. The workforce of Newtownabbey Borough Council were not immune to these factors but that did not stop many of them switching from their normal work routines to lend a hand in supporting the emergency service effort being carried out to help the most vulnerable.

Many of those, who in Newtownabbey Borough Council worked tirelessly over many days and nights to help clear streets and roads, deliver food parcels, open up access to town centres and housing developments, feel let down by some media commentary which has criticised the council's efforts to clean up our district in the most atrocious of circumstances. It is no small measure of success that even bin collections in the borough were back to 70% of collection by March 28 and are now closer to 100%.

As mayor of the borough I can say without hesitation that I am proud of our council workers. I am proud too of the leadership and commonsense shown to divert workers from non-essential services in parks maintenance, street cleaning and bin collection into emergency squads to clear pathways and roadways and to support DRD Roads Service in snow clearing across our borough. I am also proud of those council employees who assisted in the delivery of food parcels to those who may not have received these items without this help. I know how our teams on the ground helped those most isolated and in greatest need, for example, residents who needed to attend funerals, people who needed essential medical care or carers' visits.

Yes more could be done but much effort and resources were put into keeping our town centres open, as we are aware of difficult trading circumstances our retailers face because of the recession.

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