Authorities criticised over response to floods in the North-West

Serious questions have arisen over the response of the authorities to the severe floods that have devastated the north-west of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Roads and bridges collapsed, cars were washed away and homes and businesses destroyed in the violent overnight storm.

On Wednesday several people had a lucky escape when a main road in the village of Drumahoe, outside Londonderry, collapsed.

A number of people and workmen were walking on the road when a section crumbled into flood water.

Major clean-up operations have been ongoing throughout the day in the worst affected areas of counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal.

In Burnfoot around 20 families in the Pairc an Grianan and Lios na Greine estates have been left homeless after their properties were severely damaged by flood water and raw sewage.

Local resident James Sweeney described a scene of "complete devastation".

He said he and other members of the community housed many of the families on Tuesday night as well as several motorists who had been left stranded when they were forced to abandon their cars.

"It is heartbreaking to see what has happened to many of my neighbours. Around 20 homes were wiped out in the space of an hour. The houses are destroyed, they are not liveable," said Mr Sweeney.

He added: "A lot of the flood water was contaminated by sewage from a nearby sewage treatment plant and that was flooding many of the homes.

"We took in as many people as we could last night and so did other neighbours. We are a tight-knit community and we all pulled together."

Mr Sweeney criticised the response of the local authorities saying people in the area do not feel enough is being done to help them.

He also said residents are being "left in the dark" with no information coming through as to where they can receive assistance.

Fianna Fail TD Eugene Murphy said the Irish Government needs to come up with a new approach to deal with extreme weather conditions.

"The scenes of utter devastation witnessed (Tuesday) night cannot be repeated.

"Roads and bridges have been swept away rendering some areas inaccessible, there were reports of people unable to make it home, while others were stranded in isolated areas.

"There needs to be a more coordinated strategy in place involving the local authorities and the civil defence to manage these situations when they arise," said Mr Murphy.

He added: "Unless action is taken, we will continue to see collapsed roads, submerged fields and abandoned homes as a result of these extreme, and ever increasing, weather events".

In Northern Ireland the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood raised concern over the lack of preparation to deal with severe weather.

"Families and businesses struggling to cope and big questions for statutory agencies. Where was the preparation?" Mr Eastwood tweeted.

More than 100 people had to be rescued from vehicles caught in flash floods on Tuesday night when 63% of August's average rainfall fell within nine hours

Firefighters saved 93, with the Coastguard helping dozens of others.

Police, ambulance crews and search and rescue teams were also involved in the response.

There were some dramatic images of devastation on Wednesday as the rescue operation turned to clean-up and repairs.

Downpours swept in from the Atlantic Ocean, hitting Co Donegal on Tuesday afternoon before moving across Northern Ireland.

Firefighters responded to 85 separate flooding incidents on Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday.

West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer said a farmer in the area lost 76 sheep in the floods.

"(The floods have) had a disproportionate impact in rural communities with livestock and fencing being swept away.

"I spoke to a farmer this morning who lost 76 sheep alone in last night's floods and I will be impressing on the Department that this is not an isolated case.

"Another farmer I spoke to who is in his 70s said that this was the worst rain he'd ever experienced in all his years of farming," said Mr McAleer.

The Sinn Fein man has called for an urgent meeting with the Department of Agriculture to discuss the introduction of an emergency financial hardship relief scheme for farmers.

Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said questions need to be answered about the state of preparedness and the response of some statutory agencies.

Speaking after a meeting with the interim head of the civil service Ms O'Neill added: "People are also beginning the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding and we need to ensure every possible assistance is provided to them.

"That will require a robust and concerted approach across several different government departments."


 

Join the conversation - comment here

House Rules for comments - FAQ - Important message for commenters


Most Read in Ireland