Belfast Telegraph

Storm Desmond: Public counting the cost of floods in Northern Ireland as Met Office warns of further heavy rain

By Nevin Farrell

With the clear up operation underway in the wake of Storm Desmond, the Met Office is warning of further heavy rain and the potential for more flooding.

The alert will be in place between 1pm and 6pm on Monday covering counties Antrim, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone.

Rain will spread eastwards across Northern Ireland before clearing in the late afternoon, early evening.


While Monday's rain will not be as heavy as in recent days, forecasters are warning of potential flooding and disruption to transport.

Meanwhile, stores at one of Northern Ireland's most prestigious retail developments were plunged into pre-Christmas chaos as Storm Desmond's raging floodwaters caused damage estimated in the millions to top-of-the-range stock.

Elsewhere, the emergency services said it was fortunate there were no fatalities as dozens of people had to be rescued by the firefighters in the worst-hit areas, such as Strabane.

The Fire Service said that it aided at least 24 people in at least 31 callouts. Ten people were rescued in the Co Tyrone border town at a housing development where dinghies had to be brought in.

The Met Office said three inches of rain fell in some areas in 36 hours. The Linen Green shopping centre at Moygashel outside Dungannon was devastated and yesterday the majority of businesses were forced to close on what should have been one of their busiest Sundays of the year.

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One trader told the Belfast Telegraph their store had lost £100,000, and it is estimated that damage to all 31 stores at the upmarket complex will run into millions.

Linen Green's management was unable to put an estimate on the damage. Anita Ross, co-owner of The Boudoir, described the floods as devastating and said she believed she had lost £100,000 of stock.

"We are left that we can't get that stock replaced because manufacturers have stopped production at this late stage, three weeks to Christmas. We won't be able to replace it and will be left out of pocket, there is no way we can make up those sales.

"The retailers are devastated. A lot are far worse than ourselves, because their entire shop floor and store room has been flooded. Our shop floor is fine, but those different sizes we had in the storeroom, they are gone and they won't be able to be replaced.

"It definitely will have a big financial impact on ourselves and other retailers. We have lost over £100,000 in stock and that is before you count the cost of getting people in to get it drained, and earnings.

"It is completely devastating. It has left everybody in limbo. The support of the customers and retailers has been fantastic to try to come together and do the best we can. Lessons have to be learned and we need to find out why this happened. I have been there six years and we never had a flood of this magnitude before - we need to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Gareth Bell from Panache Shoe Company said: "I would say we are looking at £30,000 to £40,000 worth of stock lost. It is an awful thing in the mouth of Christmas."

Linen Green said in a statement: "All 31 units were affected by the flood, which was caused by a blocked culvert above and behind the shopping village.

"However, management and the tenants are working hard to ensure that the Linen Green is operational as soon as possible, with some traders being operational again by Monday morning."

They said they will work with agencies to clear up the damage and to get Christmas trading back on track.

"This is the collective priority for all at the Linen Green at this time," management at the shopping centre said. "It is a crucial time of the year for our traders and we will take whatever steps we can to get every business up and running again as quickly as possible."

David Porter of the Rivers Agency said that a grille was cleaned on Friday of last week but very significant rainfall had subsequently brought debris to the culvert. Flooding wreaked havoc in several counties. At one point in Clady, Co Tyrone, a digger was used to rescue an elderly man from his home.

Resident Marcus O'Neill said that the village had just recovered from a flood three weeks ago.

In one incident in Strabane, 10 people were rescued from flooded properties at a housing development.

"We used ladders and inflatable rescue sleds to take them to safety, and other agencies have been involved in providing emergency accommodation," said Fire Service group commander Andy Sinclair.

Rescuers said they were thankful there was no loss of life.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Walmsley said it had been a busy weekend across Northern Ireland.

"We started receiving our first calls for assistance to flooding incidents late in the afternoon, and those calls continued throughout the evening, spiking in the early hours of Sunday," he said.

Fallen trees blocked a number of roads as well. Michael McDermott, whose car was flooded in Maguiresbridge, Co Fermanagh, said there had been no warning signs.

"The wife hit the flood and the car just floated away," he said.

At nearby Lisnaskea The Acres estate was cut off by flooding.

The Creggan area of Londonderry also suffered from the flooding.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan yesterday activated an emergency scheme with immediate effect for householders affected by the deluge.

He said: "Individual householders will be eligible for a £1,000 payment as an offer of practical assistance to those who have suffered severe inconvenience to ensure homes are made habitable as quickly as possible.

"I realise that it's not just homes but businesses and community buildings which can be damaged from severe flooding. That's why I'm working to try to have the scheme extended so these premises can also apply for emergency financial assistance. It is not a compensation payment."

Meanwhile, water safety officials have hit out after two young men dived into the Atlantic during the storm. The pair were captured on video at the well-known sea swimming spot in Salthill, Galway, in a clip viewed more than a million times. The footage prompted the Irish Coast Guard to say: "There have been a number of posts of videos of young men doing stupid things in the water during Storm Desmond which have gained international coverage.

"While we don't want to discourage fun, just remember that when the 'adventure' goes wrong it will be the volunteer crews of the Coast Guard, the RNLI and other rescue services that have to put themselves in harm's way to pick up the pieces."

Belfast Telegraph

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