Flood fears recede after warnings
Belfast has avoided the serious flooding that many feared after a tidal surge came and went without breaching defences.
Other coastal parts of Northern Ireland have witnessed some localised floods as the combination of high tides and stormy weather brought waves and debris crashing on to roads and seafronts.
In Coleraine, in Co Londonderry, there were reports of flooding after the River Bann broke its banks, while on the east coast of the region, towns and villages such as Cushendall, Carnlough, Newcastle and Portaferry took a battering.
In Belfast a major multi-agency operation had been under way since yesterday to prepare residental and industrial districts on both sides of the River Lagan that were identified as being at major risk.
Walls of sandbanks were built in the densely-packed residential area of Sydenham in the east and on land around the docks on the opposite side of the shore.
But defences held firm and there were no reports of any serious flooding more than two hours after the midday high tide.
In Sydenham, sandbags had been distributed to residents through the night and many homes near the Connswater River were well fortified in preparation, with householders also moving furniture and other valuable possession to upstairs rooms.
Last night police told people to pack a bag and prepare for potential evacuation.
But trepidation turned to relief as many onlookers watched the level of the Connswater peak just a few feet short of the sandbank walls.
Feared floods in the docks area also failed to materialise, with changes to meteorological conditions overnight having seemingly spared the city.
With forecasters also warning of potential tidal surges on Sunday and Monday, the risk has only abated for today.
Ministers in the Stormont Executive convened an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the response to the flood threat.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is co-ordinating a major planning operation involving many public services.
The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Rivers Agency, Belfast Health Trust, Road Service, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Electricity, British Telecom and travel operator Translink have been co-operating.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin warned that the risk remained over the coming three days, particularly on Sunday and Monday.
"Over the past few hours we have experienced extreme tidal surges in many coastal areas across Northern Ireland," he said.
"In preparing for these types of events we must plan for the worst but thankfully, on this occasion, our defences held in most areas.
"Unfortunately we're not over this extreme weather yet. We are anticipating another higher than usual high tide around midday on Sunday and Monday afternoon's high tide has the potential again to cause widespread flooding.
"We will remain on high alert over the coming days and we would urge the public to do the same. We would ask people to continue avoiding coastal paths and to drive with extreme caution over the next few days. We would advise people to retain their sandbags for potential use again on Sunday and Monday.
"Weather forecasting is subject to continual change and we will continue to work with our partner agencies and engage with local communities and the media as we get a clearer indication of the coming weather patterns.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our partner agencies who have worked tirelessly over the past day and a half to ensure that this operation has gone smoothly to date."