Winter worry for south Belfast flood families
Angry residents in south Belfast face another year of anguish after a night of heavy rainfall caused further flooding in the area.
No flood warning was issued to homes in the Sicily Park area prior to sustained rainfall earlier this week, leaving residents rushing to try and protect their properties.
Initial stages of a £100,000 investment to improve the existing sewerage infrastructure by NI Water were carried out in July following widespread flooding last June, causing mass property damage.
Despite the commitment by NI Water, the work will not be completed until at least a year's time, meaning residents face a year of further worry.
Sicily Park resident Mary, who had to evacuate her house for nine months following the flooding, said that many of the houses in the area either could no longer afford home insurance or had a £10,000 pound excess.
"You're constantly on edge because you know that even 15 minutes of rainfall could lead to your house and all its contents being ruined.
"I have the weather forecast constantly on and I'm constantly checking it for any flood warning but even at that, on Monday night we had no warning at all."
Mary said the initial remedial work carried out meant that internal flooding was prevented but it was not enough to deal with any sustained downfall.
"We haven't moved most of the furniture taken out of the house last year back in because we're worried about this happening again and it being ruined.
"We've bought our own sandbags and at the drop of a hat you have to be prepared to get anything valuable upstairs.
"We've held regular meetings with NI Water and it's promising that the initial work seems to have had some benefit but until the problem is resolved we are all just living in hope."
Homeowners were critical that a Department of Environment support van which visited the scene late on Monday night did not go to the most affected homes and left elderly residents to carry the bags a long distance.
Another resident of Sicily Park with her husband and newly-born baby raised concerns about the health risk the sewage flooding posed, and said that as a result property prices in the area had plummeted.
"Last year we were on holiday when the flooding occurred and actually only found out about it when we saw our house on the news bulletin," she said.
"I love this area and I love south Belfast but we've had to consider moving because with a baby in the house the health risks of raw sewage mixing with flood water is really worrying.
"To get a house surveyed to check for foundation damage and water damage is at least £600-£700 and I think the least NI Water could do would be to financially support the residents."
SDLP councillor Claire Hannah, who has been liaised with local residents about flooding, called on NI Water to commit to infrastructural work and said that this week's rain was a "near miss" for residents.
"It's appalling that we have so many families who are left anxious and worrying every time it rains," she said.
"In Sicily Park the remedial work committed to by NI Water last year has shown some degree of success, but it is still tinkering around the edges of the main infrastructure work which needs to be urgently completed.
"The flooding issue is complex because while in Sicily the sewerage infrastructure is not adequate, similar flooding in Orchardville is caused by an inadequate pumping system.
"While these causes have been identified what we need is for NI water to act quickly and commit to the infrastructural work for the sake of the residents."