Belfast Telegraph

Experts predict increased flooding

Preparations for this year's flooding which threatened to engulf large parts of east Belfast began months in advance, it has been revealed.

High tides in January came within inches of breaching barriers while parts of the Ards Peninsula were almost washed away by freak conditions which had been predicted by forecasters.

RNLI divisional operations manager Gareth Morrison said ankle-deep water could knock people off their feet and 20 inches could move a car.

He said: "We can more or less predict what areas of Belfast, for example, would flood and what search and rescue response that would require.

"In November, the Environment Agency predicted the one in 200 year flood."

Sand bags were widely distributed in low-lying areas of the city, plans made to evacuate residents and the emergency services were put on high alert for catastrophic tidal surges.

The worst fears were not realised after the wind direction shifted slightly, meaning water levels did not breach defences.

Parts of the peninsula, Newcastle in Co Down and Coleraine in Co Londonderry were badly affected by the winter storms while on the Republic's west coast, towns like Lahinch were swamped and surfers from all over the world flocked there to enjoy huge Atlantic breakers.

An increase in the number of flooding incidents is predicted around Belfast.

The RNLI has been training to tackle the risk for the last decade.

Mr Morrison said crews were available to deploy in Northern Ireland within six hours, with 30 members trained for flood rescues.

Following a major incident, up to six flood rescue boats could be at any port in the UK within 24 hours.

A total of £1.5 million out of a budget of £150 million was devoted to flood rescue.

Mr Morrison said: "For a relatively small investment it has massive impact in saving lives and serving the community."

The RNLI brought two of its all-weather lifeboats into Belfast on Wednesday for the charity's 190th anniversary of saving lives at sea.

Volunteers on the Antrim coast said they deployed around 40 times a year.

Last year in Northern Ireland, crews at nine stations launched 255 times and brought 245 people to safety.

Lifeboats responded to 302 incidents.

A more recent case attended by the volunteers was the death of a seven-year-old boy in Ballycastle.

Logan Crawford was found at the bottom of cliffs on Sunday.

He was believed to have been playing with friends near a holiday park when he fell.

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