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Week after deluge in Northern Ireland despairing residents try to pick up the pieces



Paul O’Keefe in his flood-swamped living room

Paul O’Keefe in his flood-swamped living room

Debbie Caulfield (right), of Eglinton Community Centre, receives food donated by staff at Longs Supermarket from Elaine Lynch and James Martin

Debbie Caulfield (right), of Eglinton Community Centre, receives food donated by staff at Longs Supermarket from Elaine Lynch and James Martin

Paul O’Keefe’s ruined utility room

Paul O’Keefe’s ruined utility room

Keith O’Hara at the door of his home which still remains uninhabitable

Keith O’Hara at the door of his home which still remains uninhabitable

Paul O’Keefe in his flood-swamped living room

The house in Eglinton where Alwyn Morrow has lived for 40 years was wrecked in just 20 minutes by the floods which ravaged the north west last Tuesday evening.

One week on, the inside of Mr Morrow's home is a shell of what it was.  All the downstairs floors have been lifted, the kitchen torn out and thrown in a skip, along with the fireplace from his living room and every scrap of furniture he possessed.

Standing on the pavement outside his house in St Canice's Park - one of the areas worst-hit by the tidal wave of rain and river water that raged across many parts of counties Londonderry and Tyrone - Mr Morrow still hasn't had the electricity supply reconnected.

"I have lived here for 40 years and last Tuesday everything went in 20 minutes," he said.

"We didn't even have somewhere to live. My wife's nephew moved out of his flat and allowed us to go in there, but I don't know how long we can stay there.

"I can see no future for us right at this minute, I am in total despair. I have lost everything but I don't have house insurance so I have no idea what I am going to do.

"I am at the mercy of the kindness of others but I have to say the people of Eglinton have been amazing.

"People have come out and helped with the cleaning up, helped with food and offered to do whatever we need, but the thing is until we get electricity back into the house and get it dried out there is nothing we can do for now."

The community response after the devastating flood in Eglinton has been nothing short of breathtaking.

The local community hall has been transformed into a sanctuary of sorts, where hot food, clothing and cleaning materials have been left for delivery to those in need or for collection.

It is here too that a team from Derry and Strabane Council has set up, offering help, support and advice, including how to access the £1,000 emergency grant on offer from the Department of Communities.

The Red Cross - more associated with flood disasters in far flung corners of the world - has been providing assistance in Eglinton and Drumahoe all week too.

Debbie Caulfield from Eglinton Community Ltd said it has been inundated with calls since the flooding.

"We are trying to help people who have lost virtually everything. One family over the weekend came to us having lost buggies, high chairs, every stitch of clothing.

"The local community and local businesses have been a great support and have really rallied round to help. We have a fantastic team here and still have food, bedding and clothing available for those in need."

Last Tuesday, Keith O'Hara and his wife Carol were left with nothing but the clothes they were standing in after they were forced to flee St Canice's Park along with their disabled daughter Caoimhe.

The raging water poured through, leaving them homeless.

They have been staying with family members as a temporary measure, but are still in desperate need of somewhere to live as they face at least a six month wait to get back to their home.

Mr O'Hara said: "We still haven't been sorted out with somewhere to live, we are staying with my brother in law at the minute but I am still waiting to hear from the Housing Executive about getting somewhere to stay.

"They came out on Saturday and they did their best, but there are so many other people in the same position as us.

"My daughter is autistic, so this has been very traumatic for her; her bedroom was her safe place so it is tough for her because there has been so much upheaval.

"What has been incredible has been the way the community has pulled out all the stops to help us. The people from Eglinton have been unbelievable and we have been so glad of the help."

A few miles away in the village of Drumahoe the work on land, roads and homes destroyed by the flood has continued relentlessly every day since it too was saturated with the storms and floodwaters.

The council has set up a second makeshift advice centre at the YMCA in the village, from where it provides support and assistance.

A spokeswoman for the council said 588 requests for assistance had been received, with an estimated 492 properties directly affected across the city and district.

She added: "Council thinks there may still be the possibility that there are householders who haven't come forward and are encouraging them to do so as soon as possible."

The wait for insurance assessors to visit their ruined homes has added to the stress of many people in Drumahoe hit by the flood.

Among them is Paul O'Keefe, who still has to wade through inches of muck left behind from floodwater which rose five feet high into his home, leaving nothing salvageable behind.

"I am hoping the insurance people will have this sorted by close of business on Thursday," he said.

"I will have the skips on site on Friday and begin to clear everything out.

"It is tough, I am here every single day looking at this mess that once was the home that I built myself and where we brought up our two sons.

"It is unhygienic to be here with the muck and the smell. It is full of frogs and the next thing we are going to get is rats.

"There was one at the bottom of the garden, so they are obviously smelling the food that's lying about.

"I reckon it will be around nine months before we will have it sorted, because once we get it dried out, it needs to be rewired, replumbed, replastered, re-everything."

Belfast Telegraph