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Emergency contact demand as floods return

By Victoria O'Hara and Matthew McCreary

Belfast's Lord Mayor has called for a single emergency point of contact to be established for flood victims after heavy rainfall led to parts of Northern Ireland being inundated with water yesterday.

Up to 50 householders in east Belfast were surrounded by water after a drain became blocked by what was believed to be a discarded Christmas tree.

A Fire Service rescue team attended the scene at Castlehill Road and pumped out water.

A culvert had blocked and manholes were forced open by the pressure, leaving a mini-lake with dangerous holes in the area.

As a number of residents were forced to leave their homes crews used specialist equipment to contain the rising waters.

At one stage the Fire Service was moving water a kilometre down the road to where drains were working.

Water Service officials were tasked to examine the problem at Castlehill Road which is close to the Stormont.

The nearby Parkway in east Belfast was also flooded.

Meanwhile parts of the River Lagan had also reportedly burst its banks close to Annadale Embankment in south Belfast, spilling over the tow path.

Motorists were advised to drive with caution.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers said he was disappointed that a single emergency point of contact for members of the public had still not been established following the severe flooding which hit Northern Ireland last summer.

"Yesterday people were forced to spend a fortune on phone calls and had great difficulty getting through," he said.

"I think it's terrible that months later we still haven't got this up and running. If it was the private sector it would have been done by now.

"People in east Belfast were very angry. They were relieved that it wasn't as bad as last time. The majority of them were complaining that they simply didn't have one point of contact.

"You can't have people looking at water rising while sitting trying to get through on the phone."

Areas of Larne and Carrickfergus were also particularly affected by the flooding.

Police warned motorists to drive with extreme care on the Beltoy Road and Marshallstown Road in Carrickerfergus.

There were also reports of flooding at Magazine Street in Larne. Parts of Belfast's Knock dual carriageway and the Ballygowan Road were also hit.

A Department for Regional Development spokesman said: "Eight properties were threatened at Netherleigh and Castlehill Avenue but prompt action from Rivers Agency and Fire and Rescue Services prevented flood water entering the houses."

Byron Chalcraft, Met Office forecaster, said up to an inch of rain fell in 24 hours.

"It is still continuing to be very unsettled and still likely to be further rain coming across on Tuesday as well," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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