Urgent action required after latest floods

By Ciara Quinn

By Ciara Quinn
c.quinn@belfastmediagroup.com
URGENT action must be taken by the Stormont Executive to address ongoing flooding problems.
That was the message from Sinn Féin councillors Matt Garrett and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir as parts of West and South Belfast became impassable last Thursday afternoon when torrential rainfall caused widespread flooding. Badly hit were Orchardville Park, Sicily Park and Riverdale, while the road outside the former Belfast Metropolitan College campus at Whiterock was submerged.
Emergency services and Council staff were tasked to many areas as residents found it impossible to leave their homes and traffic was brought to halt.
“In the Orchardville, Lille Park and Sicily Park areas of Finaghy families are again dealing with the aftermath of flooding and damage to their property,” said Cllr Ó Muilleoir. “It is extremely disheartening to witness in some cases the same families whose homes have been flooded over previous years picking up the pieces once again.
“I would firstly like to commend those emergency and statutory services, including Belfast City Council, who worked urgently and effectively to respond to reports of flooding. While no-one has control over the weather, quite clearly some of the flooding incidents which we witnessed last week were entirely avoidable.
“Furthermore, we were given a commitment in 2013 from NI Water that a number of precautionary and preparatory measures would be carried out in the event of heavy rain or flood warnings in the most affected areas. These included the clearing of gullies and drains and immediate visits by staff to residents in flooding hotspots to identify homes at high risk of repeated flooding. Regrettably, these commitments have not been honoured.”
Finaghy Park North resident Pat Lavery told the Andersonstown News he lost electricity due to the floods last week, but added: “I know there were a lot more people worse off than me.”
“I have to say the Electricity Board were on the ball in trying to the power back on again, there had been a huge build-up of leaves which I don’t think helped when the heavy rain started, blocking the drains,” he said. “I rang the Council to come out and clear them away but they still haven’t been cleared, they are all still there.”
Residents in Sicily Park praised the efforts of the Fire and Rescue Service after staff remained in the area until after 10pm last Thursday night. Councillor Matt Garrett commended Council staff for their swift action in opening sandbag stores at Andersonstown Leisure Centre and St John the Baptist School.
“I chair the Council’s emergency and severe weather working group,” he said. “When I was aware of flooding I contacted the chief emergency planning officer in Council. I asked that we get the sandbag stores opened in both Ander-sonstown Leisure Centre and the emergency store in the grounds of St John the Baptist Primary School. These sandbag stores were put into these areas at our request following the heavy floods in 2012.
“We want to ensure we have the ability to act immediately when issues like this occur. However the Department for Regional Development and the Minister [Danny Kennedy] have a responsibility that the necessary work is carried out in these flood hotspots to ultimately deal with these issues. Sandbags only act as an emergency measure and until the necessary work is carried out we will continue to face issues in areas like Riverdale, Woodlands Grange, Orchardville and other parts.”
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has activated an emergency flood scheme payment for householders affected.

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