Belfast Telegraph

Questions raised over preparation and response to Northern Ireland flash flooding

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill said questions need to be answered about the state of preparedness and the response of some statutory agencies following the heavy rain which hit Northern Ireland.

A heavy deluge of rain caused havoc across many parts of Northern Ireland. In the north west flash flooding caused devastation washing cars, roads and bridges away. Thousands were left without power and many facilities, including the City of Derry Airport, were closed. In response councils activated their emergency flood plans to support residents and businesses.

Several people had a lucky escape when a main road in the village of Drumahoe, outside Londonderry, collapsed. In total 93 people were rescued from their homes or cars by the Fire and Rescue Service. Dozens more were helped by the Coastguard and some families have been left homeless

Police, ambulance crews and search and rescue teams were also involved in the response.

Major clean-up operations have been ongoing throughout Wednesday in the worst affected areas of counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal. Right across Northern Ireland 600 people, homes and businesses remained without power on Wednesday evening.

NIE said it recorded over 1,700 lightening strikes across the country, which is thought to be the highest level recorded.

The Department for Infrastructure said more than 30 roads hade been affected and damaged. It urged the public to take care on the roads and adhere to signage.

"The agencies are grateful for the patience of the public as they continue to carry out this urgent work," it said in a statement.

Serious questions have arisen over the statutory authorities - such as councils and Stormont departments - for their preparations and response.
Many have said their actions were inadequate to Met Office warnings and through the night as the heavens opened.

Arlene Foster said she had med with David Stirling, interim head of the Northern Ireland civil service.

DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said many residents were left distressed at having to leave their homes.

"As the rebuilding and clean up begins, I want to assure residents and business owners that we will be seeking a good outcome for those worst affected. The council have now activated their emergency plans and hope to provide financial assistance to those who have been badly affected.

Speaking after a meeting with the interim head of the civil service Michelle O'Neill said: "People are also beginning the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding and we need to ensure every possible assistance is provided to them.

"That will require a robust and concerted approach across several different government departments."

In Northern Ireland the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood raised concern over the lack of preparation to deal with severe weather.

Travel information can be found at the TrafficWatch website emergency news and to report flooding call 0300 2000 1000.

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