Belfast Telegraph

Storm Desmond: 'This time, everything from the roof down will be lost here, that's three years of work just gone'

By Joanne Sweeney

Cut off from neighbouring towns, the villagers of Clady battled swamp-like conditions yesterday evening as they prepared for a second night out of their homes.

Nestling beside the River Finn, the small Co Tyrone village was powerless on Saturday after Storm Desmond's heavy rain submerged the 18th century Clady Bridge for the first time in living memory and floodwater engulfed homes.

Up to six feet of water devastated several businesses in the village and affected around 14 households, with one elderly man having to be rescued from his home with a mechanical digger on Saturday.

The main road from Strabane to Clady remained impassable yesterday evening, but residents were hopeful that the receding water levels would allow them to assess the full damage this morning.

The pungent smell of oil from damaged heating tanks filled the air yesterday as volunteers struggled in slippery conditions to direct motorists away from the "lake" that had accumulated at the bottom of Clady Main Street.

A picnic table from the nearby Smugglers Inn floated past battered fuel drums and scaffolding boards, as the water marks on living room windows showed just how far it had risen.

Tommy McNulty, whose father Alec was rescued from his home on the digger, said that his dad was unwell and hadn't wanted to leave his home despite the flood warnings.

"He is fine now, he was a bit distressed," said Mr McNulty. "He is 84 and has Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.

"We couldn't assess the damage at the time, but a hospital bed in the house has been damaged. You are talking thousands of pounds.

"The local community has rallied round and helped where they could."

Among those surveying the damage was Ciaran McGlinchey (27), from the First Stop Shop. His business also flooded three weeks ago following bad weather.

"This time there was six feet of water," he said. "Everything has gone: tills, lottery machines. It is disheartening. This time it is everything from the roof down that has to go. It is just three years of work gone."

Ronan Corry (28) was also devastated by the floodwater that entered his living room and kitchen.

"My TV was destroyed, as were sofas, chairs and the washing machine," he said.

"I will have to lift the carpets. I wouldn't know where to start about how I feel. I thought I was going to be sick when I looked into the house."

Anthony Bogle (35) waded through water at waist level yesterday to visit households on higher ground stranded by the surrounding deluge. "We wanted to make sure they had the bare necessities," he said. "One woman was locked in with a grandchild and elderly relative.

"I'm in the Irish Army and my colleagues were called in (to help with flooding over the border). I could not get across to them, so I decided to stay and help in my own village."

The unaffected Kirk's Bar became a meeting point for residents yesterday. Among those in the pub was Barbara McGhee.

She was unaffected by the floods, but said she was shocked to see the damage when she woke. "I am above the fields and could see the water was right up the fences," she said. "It's the worst I've ever seen."

Most residents said they didn't believe anything could be done to stop the flooding given the village's riverside location, but some called for the waterway to be dredged.

Marcus O'Neill and Barry Lafferty from the Clady Cross Community and Development Association, who had issued warnings about the storm, thanked everyone who had helped so far, including the Community Rescue Service and Foyle Search and Rescue.

"People will work together to help each other here," said Mr O'Neill. "We expect to see the agencies here in the morning and are looking for volunteers to help with the clear-up."

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