Work to prevent two walls from further collapsing under homes in two separate parts of Londonderry is to begin immediately with the Department of the Environment picking up the bill of £250,000.
A team of experts from the DoE yesterday made site visits with Derry City Council officers after landslides at sections of Marlborough Terrace and Harding Street.
The two retaining walls collapsed last week, bringing down hundreds of tonnes of rubble, destroying residents’ vehicles and garages and causing a large oil spillage.
Flood water is thought to have caused the landslides.
This weakened the remainder of the wall on Marlborough Terrace.
On Saturday a second section of the 30ft wall running along the back of the houses came crashing down, sparking fears that the entire 150ft length of the wall could collapse at any minute.
Residents were advised to evacuate their homes, or at least to remain at the front of their houses away from danger.
After emergency meetings were held between Derry City Council staff and a delegation sent by Environment Minister Alex Attwood, work to secure the rest of the walls is expected to begin today.
Mr Attwood said: “The DoE will pick up the bill in the first instance, but I will fight it out with the insurance people to make sure they do not step away from their responsibilities. I have already spoken to the Finance Minister about this and I’m able to give the green light to allow Derry City Council to appoint a contractor so that work can begin immediately.
“This has been and remains a very difficult situation for residents, especially coming up to Christmas.
“I have spoken personally with the chief executive of Derry City Council and informed her that the council can proceed to get contractors on site to stabilise the wall.”
The news was met with massive relief by the residents who have been living in fear that their homes could be completely destroyed by further landslides.
Geraldine Campbell and her neighbours Ann Wilson and Trisha Wilson are Marlborough Terrace residents who have been advised to leave.
With just a few days to go before Christmas, they have said that they won’t be going.
The precarious situation is evident the minute the gate between their homes and the laneway is opened. Large boulders are everywhere and the vast exposed embankment, complete with open sewers, best demonstrates how fragile the situation is.
The residents have been frustrated by the lack of information they have received about the situation but the news that repair work is to begin immediately was met with relief.
Trisha Wilson said: “This has been so stressful; none of us have been able to sleep a wink since Saturday and you are all the time waiting on more of the wall to come down.”
A spokesman for Derry City Council said: “Council will continue to undertake site inspections and would reiterate its health and safety advice.”