Northern Ireland

Belfast floods: Rescue services deal with 700 flood calls

Media captionTorrential rain brings floods

The Fire and Rescue Service has dealt with more than 700 flood-related call-outs in greater Belfast following a series of heavy downpours on Wednesday.

At the height of the flooding, many roads were impassable and about 1,000 homes were left without power.

By 07:00 GMT on Thursday, most of the main roads in east and south Belfast were passable with care.

However, a Met Office amber warning remains in place and there is a risk of further flooding later.

A yellow warning, the lowest level of warning, advises the public to "be aware" of adverse weather conditions, while amber urges people to "be prepared".

The highest level warning, red, means that action should be taken.

The fire service said it had put extra resources in place. However, the service has urged people to avoid ringing the 999 service "unless there is an imminent life risk".

Northern Ireland Water said it received 2,800 calls on Wednesday evening.

Roads affected on Thursday:

  • Stewartstown Road is closed at Twinbrook Road.
  • The Belsize Road is closed at Milltown estate.
  • Brokerstown Road in Lisburn is down to one lane due to a landslide.
  • Mullaghcarton Road is blocked as a bank has collapsed due to flooding.
  • A manhole cover has lifted in Summerhill Road, Dunmurry, opposite Chestnutt Park.
  • The old Golf Course Road in Dunmurry is only passable with extreme care.
  • Other roads reduced to one lane in Lisburn include North Lisburn Feeder Road and Derriaghy Road.
  • Roads passable with care in Belfast include: Knock Road; Upper Knockbreda Road/Cregagh Road; Hillhall Road; Stewartstown Road/Twinbrook Road; Castlereagh Road/Loopland Park; Milltown Road/Belvoir Road; Stockmans Lane; Blacks Road under M1 Bridge; Milltown Road / Belvoir Road; Prince William Road/Lisburn North Feeder Road.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy accepted the weather conditions were exceptional but said the "flood line did not perform as it should have performed".

He said there were "serious questions" to be answered.

The Fire and Rescue Service said it had put extra resources in place. However, the service urged people to avoid ringing the 999 service "unless there is an imminent life risk".

SDLP MLA Conal McDevitt said parts of south Belfast had been a "scene of devastation" on Wednesday night.

He said although it was an exceptionally bad night, he criticised both Northern Ireland Water and the Roads Service and said they had been "caught off guard"

"The response was totally inadequate, the call handling facility collapsed," he said.

However, Sara Venning of Northern Ireland Water has defended its response.

"Across Northern Ireland and across Belfast the NI Water infrastructure was operational," she said.

"So this flooding did not occur because of equipment failure, this flooding occurred because of extremes of weather conditions."

A police spokeswoman said motorists should not travel unless absolutely necessary.

She added: "As water continues to subside motorists forced to abandon vehicles last night as a result of flooding can arrange to have them collected."

Belfast City Council has implemented its emergency response plan.

From 09:00 BST on Thursday, it will operate a free phone advice line on 0800 707 6965 for people living in Belfast whose homes have been flooded.

The fire service said that between 19:00 and 22:00 BST on Wednesday it was receiving a call on average every 20 seconds.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Kerr said "My officers are currently deployed at a wide range of emergency incidents involving flooding, and they have rescued and removed a large number of people in difficult conditions."

Image caption A police crew was stranded when their vehicle was engulfed by flood water. Photo by Jim Corr

He added: "Sadly, on arrival at many of these incidents we are finding considerable damage to residential and commercial property, and scenes of public distress.

"I can assure the public that NIFRS have the capacity and resources to sustain our response to what we envisage will be a protracted operation."

The coastguard and RNLI were also enlisted to help out in the operation.

First Minister Peter Robinson said Northern Ireland's infrastructure needed to improve.

"This is soul destroying for the people who have been affected," he said.

"This is the kind of weather we can expect year on year and I think we need to have the kind of infrastructure that's going to deal with it.

"That will require very significant funding. It will require the executive to look at its priorities but I think a very strong case can be made."

BBC Northern Ireland reporter Mervyn Jess said some streets in east Belfast had been "turned into rivers" on Wednesday evening.

"The water has been rolling down in torrents from the Castlereagh hills, coming down the Ballygowan Road to the junction with the Castlereagh Road and the Knock dual carriageway," he said.

Image caption Four houses were damaged, two badly, when a culverted river burst its banks at Lagmore Heights on the outskirts of west Belfast. Nearby streets were covered in mud

"Some parts are basically like a lake."

In Cushendall, County Antrim, the sudden rain saw Mill Street under several inches of water which poured into local shops and businesses.

Restaurant owner Paddy McLaughlin said: '"Just about teatime the heavens opened, the water poured down and inside of about 20 minutes the drains just couldn't take water.

"The whole street outside was flooded - there've been quite a number of businesses affected here in Mill Street."

Paula Brown said she had to try several different routes before she completed her journey from Belfast City Airport to her home in Dunmurry.

"I travelled over to collect my husband and bring him home. I had to try five different routes.

"The journey normally takes 20 minutes, but last night it took an hour and 50 minutes."

Ms Brown said the first four roads she tried were either flooded or blocked by fallen trees or vehicles involved in collisions.

"In the end, I managed to get home by, ironically enough, River Road in Derriaghy, which, despite its name, was not flooded."

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