Belfast Telegraph

Downpour leaves residents counting the cost in Antrim village

By Jane Scott and David Young

Twenty-four hours on from the torrential downpours, flood-hit residents in the Co Antrim village of Muckamore were assessing the damage caused to their homes.

In the Garden Village estate, where elderly residents were affected, evidence of the devastating extent of the deluge was hard to miss.

Remains of raw sewage could be seen on the pavements outside the houses while in the front gardens, rain-soaked carpets and ripped up lino had been discarded, ready for the dump.

Sandbags remained in place on the doorsteps and the stench of damp and sewage-polluted water, which had overflowed into the nearby homes, hung in the air.

For those residents inside, they were busy mopping up their floors and reflecting on the "mayhem" of the previous day.

Grandmother Florence Allison (74) had been out with her sister when she was contacted by daughter Joanne and told to get home quickly.

She returned to the three-bedroom semi-detached house where she has lived for 47 years to find over one foot of water and sewage at her front door, with a further 18 inches at the back.

She said: "At first we hoped that things wouldn't be too bad because I was flooded three years ago. It was a very distressing scene on Saturday and the damage this time is similar as all the downstairs flooring and carpets are ruined.

"It was just horrendous to go in and see your house like that.

"You try to keep your home in good order so this has been absolutely terrible and really heartbreaking.

"My son had to climb in through my bedroom window to see if my dogs were okay in the kitchen, which they were, although there was obviously water in their cages.

"At that stage, the water was coming into the house and everywhere was soaking. We didn't know who to ring and tried the Fire Service who did come out and took away some of the water. We also got some sandbags but it was all too little, too late."

In her back garden Florence had watched parts of a greenhouse she had been planning to build float across the patio along with her outdoor furniture.

Everything in her adjoining garage and utility room is also ruined.

She added: "The washing machine, tumble dryer and freezer were damaged and that also knocked off the electric.

"My car was parked in the garage and it is stinking, the water seeped into the car."

Florence's insurance company doesn't have a 24/7 emergency number for flooding so it will be today or tomorrow before the true extent of the damage is assessed. She lives alone, and in spite of the flooding, stayed at her home on Saturday night.

Two doors down, quick-thinking Pearl McCollum (77) was forced to call in her son and granddaughter to help flush out the flood waters which began seeping through sandbags at the front door and into her home of 44 years.

"I put all the duvets and towels I could find down to try and soak up the water," she said.

"We got basins and filled them with water which we threw into the wheelie bins. The bins were full up to the top with water because there was nowhere else to put it.

"It was all I could think of to do to get rid of it.

"It was hard work but that was what saved me, otherwise the water would have been all through the house. I never saw rain as bad as it in my life.

"The front garden was like a pond and then there was the sewage floating about.

"If I had been away out for the day I dread to think what would have happened.

"From past experience when we were flooded a few years ago, I got the whole place tiled so that I wouldn't have to rip up the carpets again."

Homeowners weren't the only ones affected as business owners also faced a battle with the flood waters.

A number of supermarkets were forced to close around Northern Ireland including Antrim's Castle Mall and Tesco, where shoppers were evacuated following the flooding.

Crumlin Leisure Centre closed early on Saturday afternoon due to the weather and a lack of sandbags.

At the Top of the Town Bar on Fountain Street in Antrim, staff and customers had a lucky escape from the downpour. While the outdoor area was flooded, a team of helpers mucked into ensure the water didn't get into the premises.

A staff member said: "It was a real team effort and thanks to them we got to back to business in time for Saturday night. We're flat out today with the restaurant fully booked so everything was quickly back to normal again.

Sean Morgan runs The Hair Lounge salon in Andersonstown in west Belfast and said that within 10 minutes of the downpour, the water had risen right up to the footpath.

"The water started coming in the front door but thankfully I had two massive spare tiles in my store that I used as a barricade, along with tons of towels.

"If I hadn't had those tiles lying around, my shop would have been totally flooded. The other shops on that row were all in the same situation as us," he said.

In Dromore, Bridge Street and Market Square were hit hard.

At Mulholland's Bar in the Square, staff said more than four feet of water had been flowing through the premises on Saturday.

At one point, the water had reached halfway up the height of a doorframe as the rain flowed into the pub.

"We got it real bad," said off-licence manager James Moore. "Just at our back there's an alley and there was four of five feet of water coming down through it," he added.

"It was actually my day off but I saw that things were getting bad so I came in and helped for four or five hours.

"But we never closed. There could be an earthquake and we'd still be open!"

Around the corner in Bridge Street, Pizza Place owner Stephen Wilson said his premises had been four inches deep in water before the Fire Service arrived to begin pumping the torrent into the River Lagan just a few feet away.

He said: "This was probably the street worst affected. Although there were others parts of the town flooded that don't normally flood."

At Pizza Place, the damage was mostly to their cardboard boxes, which are stored just a few inches off the floor.

As Mr Wilson spoke last night, the takeaway was already buzzing as manager Graham McIlwrath worked in a cloud of flour, rolling, spinning and shaping fresh dough for the customers.

"We managed to open our business as normal.

"However, there were others who are still having to clear up to try to get in shape to open for business on Monday," Mr Wilson added.

Belfast Telegraph

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