Flooding: Emergency payments to be made after downpours cause 'mayhem'

Image source, KEVIN SCOTT
Image caption,
Heavy rain led to flooding in Finaghy Road, Belfast, and other parts of Northern Ireland on Tuesday night

Emergency payments are to be made to flood victims following torrential rain across parts of Northern Ireland.

The worst affected areas on Tuesday night were Omagh, County Tyrone, and Moneymore and Magherafelt, County Londonderry.

The Fire and Rescue Service said it received 33 calls from those areas in the six hours until midnight.

One firefighter told the BBC there had been "mayhem" due to a deluge of rainwater in a short period of time.

Image source, Nicola Macrory
Image caption,
About 20 houses in Magherafelt were flooded on Tuesday night

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he had now activated the emergency payment scheme and individual households would be eligible for a £1,000 payment.

He said it was an "offer of practical assistance to those who have suffered severe inconvenience, to ensure homes are made habitable as quickly as possible. It is not a compensation payment".

Anyone who feels they may be entitled to the payment is being urged to contact their local council, which will arrange an urgent inspection of the property.

Image source, Melinda Lamberts
Image caption,
There was also bad flooding in Omagh, County Tyrone

"If the council decides that your claim is eligible, you will receive your payment within a matter of days," said Mr Durkan.

"My department will reimburse councils for the £1,000 payments to individual householders, and for the direct and indirect costs of providing practical assistance and advice.

"I and my executive colleagues want to help those most severely affected to get back to normal as quickly as possible and to assist them in ensuring their homes are habitable. "

'Inexcusable failing'

In Magherafelt, a woman was rescued from her car during several hours of rain and a pensioner was taken to safety from her home.

A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service said that about 20 houses were flooded in the town.

"It was mayhem in Magherafelt," he said.

Image source, Nicola Macrory
Image caption,
The Fire and Rescue Service said it received 33 calls in the Magherafelt area in the six hours until midnight

Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone said people were "angry and deeply frustrated at the total lack of any emergency co-ordination following floods in Magherafelt".

He praised firefighters for rescuing the two women but said the high level of service provided by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) was not matched by other statutory agencies in the town.

"Throughout the night Roads Service, Rivers Agency and NI Water failed to turn up despite NIFRS staff reporting circumstances as a priority situation," Mr McGlone said.

"Each of the absentee statutory service providers effectively abandoned people in the middle of a flood and left them to fend for themselves.

"That is an inexcusable failing," he added.

The SDLP MLA said he had spent the night with families "who were trying to locate sandbags to protect their homes only to be frustrated by the unavailability of agency staff".

'Extreme conditions'

A spokesperson for the Department for Regional Development (DRD) said: "Sandybraes [in Magherafelt] was one of 23 individual locations where DRD was asked for assistance following a particularly heavy deluge across the Mid-Ulster area between the hours of 19:30 and 22:30.

"DRD assisted in Sandybraes through the provision of sandbags co-ordinated through NI Fire and Rescue and also to individual residents who requested them directly at the local DRD depot.

"DRD also delivered additional sandbags directly to Sandybraes around midnight."

NI Water said in a statement that it had received "a number of calls and requests for assistance within the Magherafelt area, and attended where necessary".

It added: "As expected, our wastewater assets in the town experienced a surge in activity during the weather event, but these continued to function well under extreme conditions."

NI Water said that any necessary clean-up operations were "being conducted as a matter of priority".

The Rivers Agency said: "Throughout last night and into the early hours of this morning Rivers Agency responded to a number of calls for assistance.

"While the agency did not receive any calls for assistance from the Magherafelt area, staff were in the locality checking our critical infrastructure.

"While the situation has eased considerably, Rivers Agency staff continue to check our infrastructure and monitor weather forecasts and are available to provide assistance to the public."

The grounds of Letterkenny General Hospital in County Donegal were also flooded during the torrential rain.

It had only resumed full service in March after it was affected by serious flooding last July.

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