Beleaguered residents ‘not surprised’ by conclusions

Flood Response Failings highlighted in report

By Stephen McVey

T he shortcomings of flood response agencies during the deluges which swept across South Belfast in June and July have been highlighted in a Belfast City Council report released today (Wednesday).

The report, which highlights poor communication between the relevant agencies; confusion over responsibility for the issuing of damage limitation equipment and response times,  is to be presented to the Health and Environmental services committee today.

South Belfast was the hardest hit area of the city during the downpours which destroyed homes and gardens and seen sewage bubbling up into local streets.

The Council has focussed on four keys areas where improvement is needed: response times, information sharing, the operation of the flooding incident line and responsibility for the issue of sandbags.

The ‘Update on the Belfast Flooding Emergency’ document highlights the flaws in communication between NI Water, the Rivers Agency and the Department of Regional Development (DRD) who are all partly responsible for flood responses.

Kerry Hall, a spokesperson for the Sicily Park Residents Association – an area devastated twice in one month – said she was “not surprised” by the findings in the report.

“I just hope that the lessons will finally be learned and the organisations involved will apply the appropriate action to what they have found. Up until now they have not been living up to their responsibilities and it has not been good enough,” she said.

The Council’s report also criticised the operation of the emergency response phone line.

“The Flooding Incident line did not appear to operate effectively during the recent flooding event as it was not staffed up quickly enough. This resulted in the Council receiving many repeat calls from irritated residents who had been directed to the Flooding Incident line but were unable to get a response.”

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey has welcomed the review.

“As someone who was on the ground during and after the flooding I welcome this interim report.

“Obviously the commitment by the Executive to tackle these recurring problems with the £10m investment is welcome. However the lack of inter-agency communication can go to the root cause of the poor response and improving this could prevent many of the problems before they actually occur”, he said.

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