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Belfast flooding: 'It's not just a possibility that this is going to happen again... it's a certainty'


Sandbags positioned outside a house at Sicily Park in Finaghy as a precaution against further flooding

Sandbags positioned outside a house at Sicily Park in Finaghy as a precaution against further flooding

Pressure: resident Nuala Sloan

Pressure: resident Nuala Sloan


Sandbags positioned outside a house at Sicily Park in Finaghy as a precaution against further flooding

Sandbags line driveways and lie in tightly-packed heaps against front steps. Mops and buckets are strewn across patios, drying in a relieving burst of sunlight.

Belfast's flood victims took measures into their own hands to protect their vulnerable homes as floodwaters again lapped at their front doors.

People spoke of the emotional and financial cost of the flooding – and the failure of officials to prevent the repeat problem.

Residents of the 'basin' in Sicily Park, Finaghy, took action until the police and fire brigade arrived. In 2012, people driving through the water created a wave that broke over sandbags and destroyed homes. It forced families, like Mary Young's, to take refuge in rental properties.

But this time residents blocked the street with their cars to stop traffic using the road and neighbours put out their own 'Flood' warning signs.

Sewage mixed with flood water in Sicily Park and Greystown Avenue contaminating people's gardens.

On Friday, residents waited for environmental health officers to sanitise the outdoor spaces before they would allow their children out to play. "It's very distressing. Sewage is coming up the drains and we worry about the kids getting sick," one man said.

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Flooding has become a regular feature; an uncontrollable influence on people's lifestyles and homes.

"We're used to it," said Nuala Sloan, who had to move out with her husband and three young children for a year due to 2012's flood. "You start thinking: I can put that sofa on top of that one, because it's cheaper. I'll probably have to sacrifice that..."

The pressure of flooding is not only financial – pushing up families' insurance premiums – but also emotional.

Diane Dick's home has been flooded six times in 10 years. She arrived left work early on Thursday in fear for her home to find her conservatory and utility room ankle-deep with water. "It was like a witches' cauldron churning," she said.

"I started to cry and I said to myself, 'Right, Diane, that's not going to help that's just going to raise the water level.' You feel flat. It takes an emotional toll."

Mrs Sloan said: "I was trying to be relaxed, but then I was shouting at the kids. Subconsciously the pressure is there and some neighbours are at the end of their tether.

"It has a real knock-on effect on your life. You're sitting at work and if it starts raining, you're thinking 'How is the house?'.

"We're still feeling the effects of flooding two years ago, and it could happen again. I just can't face going through that six-month upheaval again."

Ann Walsh and her 70-year-old husband Jim were left without gas and electricity for 10 hours when water came in under the house's foundations. Family members brought food over and helped to put furniture up onto buckets.

She said: "This house was all redone two years ago because of floods and now the skirting boards are starting to turn brown again because of the damp. You fix the house and then it floods again – it means you're wasting your money.

"I love my house but when this happens, I wish I had moved. I've had enough of it, it's too much."

Residents say that floods have worsened, despite promises made by authorities to improve the issue after the 2012 floods.

Rory Mulholland (63), a retired school teacher, whose garage and garden were submerged in three inches of water, said: "It's not a possibility that the flooding will happen again – it's a certainty. This is a constant worry."

Residents fear that budgetary pressures will push a solution to the bottom of the list. Mr Elliott said: "This is a problem that could be fixed, and no one seems to have done it. We're all just fed up.

"It's the type of thing they're going to cut with these budget problems; we could be stuck with this problem for many years."

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