Belfast Telegraph

Community raises money for Ballyduff blaze families

By Stewart Robson

Friends and neighbours of residents whose homes were destroyed in a Ballyduff blaze have rallied round those impacted.

The PSNI is treating the fire on Saturday night in the Newtownabbey estate as arson as families begin to rebuild their lives after losing many of their possessions.

At least six homes were damaged as flames ripped through the terraced houses on the Ballyfore Road.

With one family taking shelter in the nearby Valley Leisure Centre on Saturday night, others are now staying with relatives while some are still on holiday, yet to come back to the devastation. A cat from one of the scorched homes is reportedly missing.

Hollie Rice is a friend of Lisa Roe, who along with her teenage sister Sophie, was forced from her home because of the blaze.

Hollie set up a JustGiving page on Sunday morning with the hope of raising £1,000 and, as of yesterday, more than 90% of the target had been reached.

In a Facebook post, Hollie said: "One of my best friends has lost everything in this devastating fire which destroyed four homes yesterday in Newtownabbey. Her, her teenage sister and their pets are safe but everything else is gone."

Sentimental pieces of jewellery belonging to their mother are thought to have been lost.

A resident who lives just 60 yards from where the blaze took place said her dog alerted her by running frantically back and forth to her from the garden.

"Those people have nothing. They came out of their house with what they stood up in," she said.

"On Sunday morning I saw a girl who lives in one of the houses with her husband. They were just standing in their clothes. A wee boy was squealing for his teddy. He's only around six years old, but could be younger.

"Another man was saying that he works every hour God sends and only works for the minimum wage. He says he was watching his life go up in front of him.

"If this has traumatised me, I can't think what they (the families) are like."

Councillors and officers from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council met last night with those affected by the fire. The Citizens Advice Bureau and the Housing Executive also attended.

DUP councillor Stephen Ross said the process of finding new homes for the families could be "lengthy", but all authorities are working together to try and find a solution. He also highlighted concerns regarding any potential access to emergency relief for families caught up in such tragedies.

Emergency funding was made available by the Department for Infrastructure to residents in the north west following flood damage last year. But with no Executive in place at Stormont, he raised concerns over who makes decision over such incidents.

Councillor Ross said: "If we had a tragedy such as Grenfell, there's actually nothing in place because councils don't deal with housing. So how is a disaster like this sorted out? There's questions that need to be asked."

The Department for Communities spokesman said: "The properties involved in this incident are all privately owned.

"The owners would therefore firstly look to their buildings and contents insurance to claim any compensation for damage to and loss of personal property.

"The financial assistance scheme used in the north west was put in place in 2007 by the Executive and has been renewed as necessary since then.

"It is designed specifically to address the immediate needs of householders in the event of flooding of homes following significant rainfall or tidal surge. It does not extend to emergencies outside of flooding.

"It is not a compensation scheme and therefore does not replace or displace the payments made by the insurance companies for the damage caused by flooding to households."

Belfast Telegraph

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