Belfast Telegraph

We've been left high and dry, say flood-hit Northern Ireland traders calling for help

By Donna Deeney

Traders whose premises were flooded in the storms that battered the north west have slammed the lack of support and financial help available.

Eglinton and Drumahoe in Co Londonderry were among the areas most badly affected when one of the worst downpours in recent years hit last Tuesday night.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were swamped in several feet of water.

Derry and Strabane Council is continuing to provide advice and assistance to people whose homes were damaged.

But traders are angry at the lack of support.

They include Brenda Kyle, who owns Salon BK in Glendermott Business Park in Tullyally.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Kyle said the shock and stress she experienced in the days after the storm hit has now been replaced by anger.

"The salon that I have invested so much in over the past 14 years was left a complete mess and washed out in the flood," she said.

"I was initially told I would be entitled to the £1,000 emergency fund but that wasn't the case because it is only for people whose houses have been damaged.

"Traders like me have been left high and dry by the statutory agencies - left to fend for ourselves.

"I have had to replace all my stock right down to towels and gowns and was out of business at a very busy time in hairdressing.

"When I first arrived and saw all the damage done by the flood I just started doing what I had to do but as each day passes I realise how little help and support there is for business people.

"I am getting angrier and angrier."

In the aftermath of the flood, Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan contacted the Civil Service and political parties asking that access to the emergency fund be extended to include the business fraternity.

Mr Durkan said the lack of an Assembly was exacerbating the problems.

"While the Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme for flood victims is in place, it doesn't extend to local businesses and community organisations," he said.

"This is something the SDLP has already asked all party leaders to agree to so that support could reach non-domestic properties.

"Farmers and local businesses who have lost their livelihoods are crying out for help."

He added: "If the Assembly was in place, one option would be to make readily available schemes easier for flood victims to access."

Several community groups and charities in Eglinton and Drumahoe were helped to get their premises back up and running through a fund set up by the Community Foundation. However, this also was not extended to private businesses.

Those who benefited included Eglinton Community Ltd, Institute FC, Club United, Jack and Jill Community Playgroup, Community Partnership, Another Chance Charity Shop, St Eugene's GAA and Londonderry YMCA.

Also receiving an emergency grant is the Glenelly Development Trust in Co Tyrone, which has been co-ordinating a flood relief effort in the Plumbridge and Cranagh areas.

The trust opened its premises to provide relief for local residents as well as accommodating staff from CAB, UFU and Rural Support.

Andrew McCracken, the chief executive of the Community Foundation, said: "In these types of crisis situations people need help immediately and we are delighted to be able to award these grants so quickly to groups working on the ground in the north west.

"Being able to help keep the groups up and running is crucial in terms of helping the wider community for whom these groups will often be the first port of call."

Belfast Telegraph

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