Belfast Telegraph

Storm Frank: Power restored to Northern Ireland homes

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Emergency crews worked overnight to restore electricity to almost 21,000 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland after Storm Frank blasted Northern Ireland with gale-force winds and heavy rain.

More than 270 roads were blocked by floods or fallen trees. Most have now reopened and only a handful of isolated properties remain without power.

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The Met Office Northern Ireland will be mainly dry on Thursday evening and overnight with some clear spells developing.

It was a different story on Wednesday night as ferries and flights were cancelled and roads were closed as the region took a battering.

Gusts of 78mph were recorded at Magilligan on the Co Londonderry coastline, and a passenger plane from Gatwick only landed in Co Antrim after four attempts.

Portaferry's Christmas tree was blown down, while the worst hit area for power cuts was Enniskillen, where 4,000 homes were cut off, and the Coleraine area, where 3,300 were affected. Hundreds more in Ballymena, Downpatrick and Omagh were also hit.

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At Belfast International Airport (BIA), frustrated passengers could not get off planes for two hours as the winds prevented ground crews bringing out stairs to allow them to disembark.

Flights from Edinburgh, Tenerife, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Gatwick and Bristol landed, but because of the high winds, it was not possible to manoeuvre aircraft access steps into place. Two inbound flights, from Luton and Tenerife, diverted to Dublin.

Brian Carlin, commercial director at BIA, said the wind speed was higher than the limit for opening the aircraft doors safely. "You have to put the steps out, and when the wind's blowing around that's very difficult to do," he added. "We've taken one diversion from City, we've taken one from Dublin and we've also sent one to Dublin. It just depends where the high winds are at that time as to whether someone can get in or not."

BIA said the disruption would have a knock-on effect on other departures and urged travellers to check before leaving home.

Flights into Belfast City Airport were also cancelled, while others faced delays. An Aer Lingus Airbus from Gatwick to the airport was diverted to BIA after two failed attempts to land - and it only landed at Aldergrove on its second attempt. Another Aer Lingus flight from Heathrow to Belfast City was diverted to Dublin. At least four flights on the same route were cancelled.

Between 8pm and 9.40pm, seven landings were late arriving at the international airport, and from 3pm, more than 20 departures were delayed.

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Meanwhile, flooded roads were closed in counties Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone.

The Foyle Bridge in Londonderry was closed to high-sided vehicles, with a 30mph speed restriction applied to all traffic, and the Peace Bridge was closed to pedestrians. The Strangford Ferry was also suspended.

At the ports, all P&O ferry crossings between Larne and Cairnryan were cancelled at lunchtime yesterday until 4am today.

Stena Line ferries from Belfast were also delayed last night, with more expected this morning.

An amber warning - the second highest alert - for heavy rain was in force until 7am this morning, with the Met Office saying people should be prepared for disruption including flooding from rivers and surface water.

Police crews were dealing with fallen trees in the Cookstown and Magherafelt areas late last night. A lane on the Dublin Road in Newry was blocked by a fallen tree, causing delays of up to four hours for motorists. It has since reopened.

In Co Antrim and east Co Londonderry, at least 20 trees were blocking roads last night, while another 14 were felled in the Newry, Mourne and Down area, and nine in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon district.

Pedestrians and motorists alike were warned that areas including Newcastle promenade, Ards Peninsula and the coastal route between Warrenpoint and Rostrevor "should be treated with caution".

Useful phone numbers

Police, Fire & Rescue, Ambulance or Coastguard: 999 in emergencies or 101 for less urgent police calls

Flooding Incident Line: 0300 2000 100

NI Electricity: 0845 7643 643

Northern Ireland Water: 0845 7440 088

Phoenix Natural Gas: 0845 9005 253

Firmus Energy: 0845 6080 088

NI Housing Executive: 03448 920 901

Woman trapped in car

In Derry, a woman was travelling through the Rosemount area when her vehicle was stopped in its path and she became trapped.

Fortunately, she managed to escape uninjured before a rescue team arrived at the scene.

It was one of six calls for help, according to the Fire and Rescue Service's Dermot Rooney.

"We would ask people, particularly when they're out in cars, not to drive into flood water," he added.

"Flood water can seem shallow, but it doesn't take very much water to make a car float away."

The west of the province was hit hard by heavy rain last night, producing a lot of surface water, Transport NI said. Drivers were urged to exercise extreme caution.

SDLP MLA John Dallat has called for preventative action to address coastal erosion along the Northern Ireland coast.

The East Londonderry representative said: "There are serious coastal erosion problems on the Causeway Coast and not least on the Foyle Estuary as highlighted by my party colleague Councillor Gerry Mullan when he called for a greater role for local councils following their reorganisation last year.

"One of the most scenic spots on the 500 mile coast is Magilligan Point where already there are worrying signs that car parking adjacent to the Point Inn, a popular restaurant, could be lost to the sea if preventative action is not taken very soon and there are other examples which point to a very substantial programme of preventative action being urgently needed.

"I am delighted that our Minister for the Environment Mark H Durkan will be one of those attending meetings of the new task force and I have every confidence that his knowledge of the very serious issues on the Causeway Coast and Foyle Estuary will mean that they are adequately addressed.

"he dreadful events in England in the last few days clearly illustrate the need for investment in coastal and river defences and regrettably, that has not happened to date.

"There are broader issues, of course and not least the need to sustainable drainage systems that better manage the flow of water after heavy rainfall. 

"These issues also pertain to the north and I sincerely hope that in the course of their work the new task force will come to realise that what happened in England could occur here in an ever increasing frequency if capital investment is not made both for the short and long term.

"This is surely a task for both local and central government but it will be costly and can’t be left to local ratepayers to fund.  The financing is a responsibility for the Assembly and the British Government."

The deluge will further affect parts of counties Tyrone and Fermanagh which were severely flooded before Christmas and are still saturated with previous rainfall and in danger of further flooding.

The stormy weather also caused part of the coast road to Portaferry to collapse after water washed it out below ground, leaving a massive hole in the road surface.

This reduced the route to one lane with a chicane system in place yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph


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