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Farmers left counting the cost as floods wreak havoc across Northern Ireland

By Allan Preston

Published 14/12/2015

Sheep along the snow-capped Sperrin Mountains
Sheep along the snow-capped Sperrin Mountains
A lady walks home with her shopping in Enniskillen

First the rain and flooding - now the snow.

A weekend of extreme weather has caused major disruption across Northern Ireland.

Snow, sleet and rain was especially heavy across the west of the province with the Glenshane Pass closed to traffic yesterday morning as vehicles struggled in the steep slippery surface.

Parts of Londonderry were also blanketed in snow.

In Fermanagh many areas were recovering from flooding brought by Storm Desmond, which saw an entire month's rainfall pour down in just one day.

A yellow weather warning was issued yesterday by the Met office warning for more rain across the county.

Although the heavy downpour expected never came, the Rivers Agency was keeping a close watch on the water levels around Lough Erne - which remain high.

Barry Read, a Lisnaskea agri-contractor, has said his farm has been flooded three times in the last six years and the current spell of bad weather has caused massive damage to his crops and machinery.

"Around 100 tonnes of grain was soaked, and we've managed to dry around half of it," he said.

"The remainder of it, I'm not sure if we can save it or not."

Mr Read added that £150,000 worth of farm machinery had actually been submerged under water. "My insurance won't cover the grain," he said.

"It will cover some of the machinery that's damaged but we'll not actually know that until next season until we get out. We'll take preventative measures. We'll have to get the gearboxes changed and there's also the cost of labour as well."

He was also critical of the Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill - who has said there is no immediate engineering solution to the problem - for failing to visit the area sooner.

The coming week is expected to see some reprieve on the weather front. Temperatures of around 10C are predicted for most of the week, with some light showers and the weekend snowfall expected to be melted by Thursday.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott has called on the Department of Agriculture to bring forward financial relief measures for farms and businesses affected by the bad weather.

"The Department of Environment has announced a relief package for households that were affected but there's been nothing announced for businesses. I asked a week ago but still have no response," he said.

Mr Elliott visited the Linen Green shopping centre in Moygashel last Monday. Millions of pounds worth of damage was caused to the 31 units there after they were submerged in two feet of water.

"Some of them have lost over £100,000 of stock. I'm not sure if the insurance will cover it all," said Mr Elliott.

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