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Storm Francis causing flooding across Northern Ireland

Storm Francis has brought heavy downpours and flooding to Northern Ireland, with the Newcastle area the worst affected.

A yellow weather warning was brought in at midnight and is due to last until 6am on Wednesday.

The Shimna Road in Newcastle has flooded after the Shumna River burst its banks, with police asking drivers to find alternative routes.

The Drum Road in Cookstown, near Teebane crossroads, is also impassable due to flooding. Drivers are urged to avoid the area.

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Flooding beginning on the Blacks Road in Belfast as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Flooding beginning on the Blacks Road in Belfast as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Flooding beginning on the Blacks Road in Belfast as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Ballyhanwood Road in Dundonald has reopened after a tree fell down between Old Dundonald Road and Gilnahirk Road.

Drivers are also being advised to avoid Brewery Lane in Donaghmore where an electric line has come down and is lying on the road. Partner agencies have been tasked to remove the line.

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “Between midnight and 5pm today we received 49 flooding related calls and attended 28 flooding incidents across the Newcastle, Maghera, Draperstown and Cookstown areas.

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A fallen tree on the Old Golf Course Road in Dunmurry as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A fallen tree on the Old Golf Course Road in Dunmurry as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A fallen tree on the Old Golf Course Road in Dunmurry as storm Francis takes hold in Belfast on August 25rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

“Working in challenging conditions, Firefighters, with the support of other agencies, rescued 37 people from flood water. This included 9 people from a house on the River Road in Draperstown, along with 4 people outside the property who were trying to provide assistance before the arrival of Firefighters.

“With more rainfall expected late into this evening, we have redeployed resources to deal with any further flooding whilst maintaining our normal emergency response.

“Our Specialist Rescue Team, Flood Response Teams and local Crews in those areas continue to be on the ground working with our colleagues in the statutory and voluntary sectors to help keep people safe.

“In the event of serious flooding phone the NI Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100. If there is a risk to life dial 999 immediately and we will respond.”

The Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon praised the multi-agency and community response to the storm.

After visiting Newcastle, she called for communities to be on their guard as weather warnings remain in place.

Minister Mallon said: "With weather warnings still in place we need to remain vigilant and keep our guard up against the elements. Staff from my Department alongside other agencies remain on the ground distributing sandbags and providing assistance to property owners.

"They are ready to respond as necessary and are continually monitoring the situation throughout the North, including latest weather reports," she said.

"Today, I visited Newcastle to speak with residents and those affected by Storm Francis. I have seen first-hand the hardship facing these families and while there’s been a swift effort in partnership here today – sandbags have been delivered and we are working to help get things resolved – I recognise a longer term solution is required.

"That is why I am giving my commitment and assurance that the flood alleviation scheme will be delivered for this area as quickly as possible. My officials advise that we hope to have the scheme on the ground by summer 2021 but I am asking for that to be escalated to explore any options to get work brought forward," she said.

The Department of Infrastructure has said multi-agency partners are responding to impacts of Storm Francis.

A DfI spokesperson said: "Due to the heavy rainfall the Shimna River has burst its banks in places and there are significant reports of flooding in the Newcastle area. Staff were on the ground from early morning distributing sandbags and providing assistance to property owners.

"Throughout Northern Ireland the Department's operational teams continue to clear essential infrastructure to reduce the risk of flooding to homes.

"Close monitoring of water levels is ongoing and will continue until the weather warnings have elapsed. Multi agency conference calls have been ongoing since yesterday so that key agencies have been ready to respond.

"Roads have also been impacted by localised flooding and it has been necessary to close a number of roads. The public are asked to consider the need for their journeys, take extra care when travelling and adhere to road signs and/or any temporary traffic control measures."

Agencies will continue to monitor the situation closely and take any necessary action.

Storm Francis has brought gusts of more than 50mph overnight ahead of the wet and windy weather impacting vast swathes of the country on Tuesday, leading to debris on the road, fallen trees and spray or large waves on coastal routes.

Commuters in Northern Ireland have been advised to check travel advice before travelling.

Belfast Telegraph