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Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


Councillors lend a helping hand to local flood victims


Flooding at Lisburn's Civic Centre over the weekend.LOCAL Councillors lent a helping hand to flood victims last weekend as the torrential downpour saw several rivers burst their banks.

Several families had to leave their home, with others just managing to hold back the waters with sandbags.

Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots and his family helped one local family rescue their cattle, whilst Killultagh Councillor Thomas Beckett visited homes and offered help to families.

However, Mr Poots described the Government response to the flooding as "unco-ordinated, unhelpful and unacceptable."

Mr Poots commented: "While the rainfall was exceptional, and therefore damage was inevitable, many people in desperation for help could obtain none. As a public representative responding to constituents, I was unable to contact the police and had to wait in a calling queue for 45 minutes to speak to Roads Service representatives on a number which is an emergency helpline for Councillors.

"This was further exacerbated by a passing of the buck merry-go-round between Northern Ireland Water, Roads Service and Rivers Agency. Ultimately all the public were concerned with was getting help, usually in the form of sandbags, as opposed to which agency actually delivered the help.

The scene at Laurelhill on Saturday. Pic by Tim LittlerWhat is even more astonishing is that assistance when offered from Lisburn City Council was not taken. On Saturday afternoon the council director with responsibility for emergency planning contacted Northern Ireland Water to offer staff to assist in manning the helplines, alleviating blockages and delivering sandbags, in spite of the fact they were failing to cope, the offer was not taken up.

"It is evident from weather patterns that flash flooding is a problem that we are going to encounter again, it is also evident that a more co-ordinated response is required to assist those in difficulty. Saturday was not just a disaster because of the unprecedented rainfall in such a short period of time, but because of the failure on the part of those in charge of the relevant agencies to adequately deal with the problems."

Mr Beckett added: "I had a number of people contact me as everywhere was flooded. There was very little that could be done, I don't think I have ever as much rain at one time, it came very quickly and families had to leave their homes as the Ballinderry river overflowed.

"There was severe flooding in the Aghalee and Ballinderry areas, I was in homes seeing the damage and trying to help."

Mr Beckett added that hotspot areas must be identified to prevent such flooding from occurring again in the future.

"Hotspots for water coursing areas should be established," he said. "There was no coordination between the council and other agencies so that any input the council had was last minute.

"An inter-agency meeting was held last week that didn't include the council. In future regular inter-agency meetings should include the council, agencies need to have a more co-operative approach to it."

Ulster Star