North west floods: Families still unable to return home

Media caption,
North West flooding - five months on

Dozens of families are still unable to return to their homes almost five months after flooding devastated parts of the north west.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded when record rain fell across counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal last August.

Ten families, tenants of Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) homes, are currently living in mobile homes.

The NIHE said a further 13 Londonderry families also remain displaced.

Some private homeowners are also still out of their homes.

Housing Executive area manager Eddie Doherty said work is ongoing to ensure all affected families in NIHE properties are "back in their own homes by the end of the month".

Image caption,
Almost two-thirds of the region's average monthly rain fell in a single night

"Housing Executive staff are very well experienced in dealing with homelessness. However, an emergency caused by flooding, and the trauma that comes with it, definitely poses challenges," Mr Doherty said.

"Each family had their own particular story, vulnerabilities and complexities that we had to deal with.

"Staff came to know them personally and it's been good to be able to help people when they were most in need."

The executive said a total of 94 properties were affected by the floods and estimate their final repair bill will exceed £500,000.

A number of private homeowners have also been unable to go home after the August flood.

Businessman Paul O'Keefe said he is hopeful repair work on his Drumahoe home will be completed by April.

Image caption,
Paul O'Keefe hopes his family can return to their own home in April

"I think you have to stay mentally strong, my wife is a great believer that there is always someone worse off than us," he said.

"Both our sons have been a tower of strength. This has knit us closer as a family and that has been very important."

A Department of Infrastructure (DFI) review into the multi agency repsonse to the flooding will be published next month.

Sean O'Neill from the DFI told BBC Radio Foyle the department would also will consider holding a public meeting for residents following the report's publication.

Record rainfall - almost two-thirds of the region's average monthly rain - fell in a single night on 22 August.

The Met Office said more than 70mm fell in just six hours.

Image caption,
Flood damage to a family home in Derry

More than 100 people had to be rescued as storms ripped through the region.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said at one point on August 22, they were responding to a flood-related call every 45 seconds.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland handled a further 262 flood related calls as the rains fell.

Meanwhile, a Derry City and Strabane District Council emergency fund set up to help victims has made over £370,000 worth of payments since August.

Image caption,
The Barr family home in Eglinton was badly damaged by the August floods

"An additional £9,500 emergency funding was administered through the council's community services section to community organisations and charities through their community services emergency fund," a council spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that 26 of its own premises were affected by the floods and said that, in the days following the flood, council staff removed over 200 tonnes of debris and rubbish from affected homes and business.

Across the north west the floods devastated infrastructure, farms and river defences.

More than 200 roads and 650 bridges in Londonderry and Tyrone were damaged by the flooding.

The floods also closed City of Derry airport where the cost of repair work is expected to top £1m.

Image source, Gary McCall
Image caption,
Floods from above in Campsie, County Londonderry

The Department for Infrastructure estimates the total repair bill will reach £10-11m while the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) says more than 1,000 hectares of farmland was affected.

Furthermore, the department said 350 sheep and 14 cattle were lost in the flood, while 18 pollution incidents caused by the heavy rain have since been investigated.

A spokesperson said farming continues to be impacted.

"Persistent wet weather since August has hampered flood recovery action on farmland affected by debris deposition, erosion and field boundary damage," they said.

"More generally, it has also caused substantial disruption to silage and arable crop harvesting."

The flooding also caused serious damage in neighbouring County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

Image source, AWS Tyres
Image caption,
A van teeters on the edge of a huge hole in the road at Quigley's Point in County Donegal following the floods

Donegal County Council estimates the cost of repair work across the county to be 15.3m euros (£13.5m).

Meanwhile, the Irish Red Cross say they have allocated 530,000 euros in relief aid to almost 50 business and community organisations impacted by the floods.

A further 73,750 euros was distributed via their discretionary grant scheme to 59 households and 12 business and community organisations.