Belfast Telegraph

Weather chaos fury as floods and snow hit Northern Ireland

We were passed from pillar to post as water rose, claim residents

Severe weather conditions are expected to continue across the UK until Monday - piling more misery on Northern Ireland homeowners already battling the affects of high winds, flooding and snow.

The Met Office issued the warnings of icy conditions across most of the country, with a storm bringing more nasty weather.

More than 12 hours after flooding devastated a suburban development in Northern Ireland, residents were still waiting for officials to come to their aid, they said last night.

Homeowners in Ballymagroarty on the outskirts of Londonderry could only watch in despair as a torrent of water ripped down a street and tore through their properties.

The residents of four Baelaghmor houses were left standing outside for hours while they were passed “from pillar to post” by statutory agencies they were praying could help them.

Standing on the street helplessly watching as the water surrounded her home, Roslyn Donegan has lost everything.

The Christmas decorations in the window belie the utter devastation within her home.

She said: “It all kind of happened at once — I heard a commotion outside and at the same time I saw the water seeping in under my front door.

“Someone was calling, ‘don't open your door' but I thought they were saying ‘open your door' and I did. The next second the water was up at my waist and my son who was standing behind me was squealing. He was in a bad state.

“I immediately switched everything electrical off but by this stage the water was up at the level of my worktops in the kitchen so I just got out as fast as I could.

“But really, I have lost every single thing I own in this world and I have no home insurance so I am standing here in the clothes I have on me and I can't even get into my house.

“This was reported to the emergency flooding number at 10pm last night (Tuesday) and after being put on hold for 20 minutes we eventually got speaking to someone who kept us on the phone for another half hour.

“Someone came out from the DoE, took a look around them and left, saying there was nothing they do.”

Raymond Beattie lives in house next door to Roslyn and escaped from his house through the upstairs bathroom window because there was so much water in the ground floor.

He is furious at the lack of action and wants someone to take responsibility.

“The Rivers Agency was told about this at 10pm last night but they still won't say it is down to them and the Northern Ireland Water are saying the same,” he said.

“The only people to come here to help have been the local neighbourhood partnership volunteers and the local political representative.

“But as for the people who are earning the big money, they are nowhere to be seen and have passed us from pillar to post.

“We are looking at about £20,000 worth of damage when you take everything into consideration.

“Your home is your castle and I think I am the only man in Derry with a swimming pool in the front of his house and a swimming pool in the back of his house.”

While Roslyn and Raymond were still waiting to get the water pumped out of the homes, the water had subsided from outside Catherine Ferguson's house, built on slightly higher ground.

But the sight that met her when she opened the door reduced her to tears.

Her neighbours hugged and comforted her as she surveyed tiled and wooden floors covered in mud.

She said: “I heard the screaming out in the street and looked out but then the water started flooding in and I just lifted my son Ryan who is only six months and ran out.

“This is awful and I don't know how I am going to get it sorted but I will worry if it will happen again but there is no one here that can tell us anything.”

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland Water said: “NI Water is sympathetic to those customers in the Baelaghmor area who have recently suffered flooding from a local culvert.

“The lead agency for dealing with flooding resulting from overflowing water courses is the Rivers Agency who should be on site.

A Rivers Agency spokesperson said: “The Flooding Incident Line has no record of a caller waiting for 45 minutes.

“Rivers Agency first received a report of flooding at this location at 23.40 hours on Tuesday and a member of staff visited the site shortly after midnight.

“A squad was dispatched and attended the site at 1am although the houses were already flooded.

“Works are ongoing to clear a blockage in a culvert and an extensive pumping operation has been carried out in conjunction with NI Fire and Rescue Service.”

It was like a bomb had exploded... two men’s livelihoods wrecked after storm brings down wall

A man whose van was buried when a 15m high wall collapsed at the height of a storm said the scene of devastation he witnessed was like “a bomb that had exploded”.

Chris Wilson had just returned home to Marlborough Terrace in Londonderry at 2.30am and was getting ready for bed when he heard a massive bang.

He went outside to discover his van and two other cars under a pile of rubble, mud and oil from a crushed tank, which was flowing towards the house.

He said: “At first I thought it was a bomb that had exploded.

“But I just couldn't believe what I was seeing when I opened the back door, the first thing that hit me was the smell of the oil which was gushing towards the back door.

“About 30 metres of the wall had come down on the top of my van and the two other cars parked beside it and had brought the trees down with it.

“I play in a band and use the van to carry equipment so that's all lost too.”

Chris's mother Monica (78) was asleep in her bed but she woke with a start at the sound of the wall hitting the cars.

Yesterday, despite the chaos the pensioner remained calm as she surveyed the damage.

“My son was in the van half and hour before it happened so I am just glad that he is OK and that no one got hurt.

“The rest we will deal with,” she said.

“I lost about £700 worth of oil and my fire only heats the living room and not even the water but when you rear 13 of a family you learn to take things in your stride and we will get over this too.”

Only the number plate of Jimmy Mallon's car was visible after two trees and a pile of rubble engulfed the rest of it.

Mr Mallon, a taxi driver with two small children, has now been left with no way to work in the busy run up to Christmas.

He said: “The first I became aware of anything was when the police knocked on my door at about 4.30am.

“We slept through it but when I came out the only part of my car that I could see was the number plate.

“It was quite a shock to say the least but I only started taxiing a few months ago and this is the busiest time of the year for us.”

Mr Mallon added: “It's when we make our money, so I really have no idea what I am going to do.”

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