Where were the sandbags?

By Gráinne Brinkley

A WAR of words has broken out between Lisburn City Council and Sinn Féin Colin representatives over the Council’s response to extensive flooding in Twinbrook and Lagmore.

The row comes as allegations have been made that the Northern Ireland Rivers Agency diverted sand bags held at the agency’s Lisburn depot to deal with flooding in Belfast, leaving many homes in the Colin area without adequate defences against serious flooding problems.

Twinbrook and parts of Lagmore were some of the worst hit during last Wednesday night’s flooding, with the Stewartstown Road totally impassable for a large period of time due to high levels of flood water.

Sinn Féin Lisburn Councillor Charlene O’Hara slammed the Council for being “completely absent” from the Colin area during the deluge.

“While Belfast City Council had an emergency response room, co-ordinating with staff and councillors, and were able to set up an emergency response line and distribute sandbags to hard hit areas, the only response from Lisburn City Council for this entire area was a direction to phone the Emergency Flood Line,” said Councillor O’Hara.

“Had Lisburn City Council officials even lifted the phone to try this line of inquiry they too would have found out that this was a dead end. They didn’t try this, nor did they try anything else. They were found wanting when the people of Colin, who all pay their rates to this Council, needed their help.”

However, Lisburn City Council defended its performance, putting the blame on a lack of emergency response by the Rivers Agency.

“Members of the public contacted the Council following heavy downpours across the city. The Council logged these incidents of flooding with the Rivers Agency for action and activated its Emergency Response,” said the Council.

“It immediately sent one Environmental Services crew to the Twinbrook/Poleglass area to provide assistance. Three crews were also assigned to assist the Rivers Agency with the filling and the delivery of sandbags throughout the night. During the response the Council requested additional sandbags for the Lisburn area and were advised by the Rivers Agency that any remaining sandbags held at the Lisburn depot were allocated for the Belfast response. The Council’s Chief Executive has written to the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development seeking an explanation as to why this action was taken.”

A spokesperson for the Rivers Agency said: “Rivers Agency provided assistance to those impacted by this flood event and issued in total in excess of 12,000 sandbags, many to local councils for distribution. Lisburn City Council contacted Rivers Agency on Thursday morning requesting sandbags, and they, along with Belfast City Council, were informed by Rivers Agency that as soon as fresh supplies were delivered, Rivers Agency would be happy to provide them with all the quantities they required. The sandbags arrived at the Lisburn depot at lunchtime and were distributed to both councils who had trucks waiting.”

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