Call for action over drains after flooding leaves homes destroyed
Flooding across Lurgan and beyond caused severe damage to homes and businesses with some asking why more help was not forthcoming.
While many councillors across all the parties were praised for being on the ground some residents felt the council should have opened a leisure centre to help those affected.
Areas badly affected by the unprecedented rainfall on Saturday included Dean’s Walk and Shankill Graveyard in Lurgan, the Kilwilkie area, North Circular Road area, Knockramer, Carrick Drive and Union St areas as well as the Dollingstown area.
Heroic stories emerged such as former Ulster Unionist councillor Kyle Savage and farmer bringing his slurry tank into Lurgan to help drain water from the badly flooded Carrick Drive.
Neighbour helped neighbour as water levels rose sharply in Dean’s Walk and other areas of Lurgan.
There was praise for many of the councillors, including SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden and Sinn Fein Cllrs Declan Mackle and Keith Haughian as parts of Kilwilkie became a flood plain.
And DUP MLA Carla Lockhart praised the farmers who came to the rescue in the Carrick Drive area but said drainage in these areas needs to be reviewed.
However, most praise was heaped on the NI Fire and Rescue Service who attended several calls across the town pumping water from homes and gardens.
One resident of Dean’s Walk couldn’t praise them highly enough.
Debbie Shortt said the fire crews were the only ones who arrived to help at the height of the flooding. “I had to get crisis leave from work at the hospital as my daughter was panicking about the water rushing into the house.
“There were two manholes floating in my back garden. There was no one else there to help apart from the neighbours. A lot of young families were stranded in their homes - not knowing what to do.
“I was disgusted that the council didn’t open a community centre. There are people here with sewage in their kitchens and living rooms,” said Debbie, adding that she was grateful for two men from the Water Board power hosing some of the debris and sewage on Sunday.
Meanwhile Upper Bann SDLP has called for an investigation into the flooding and for reassurances that measures will be taken that storm drains and gullies can withstand future flooding.
“The scenes of flooding and the stories of desperation were harrowing.
“The Upper Bann SDLP want to thank the NI Fire and Rescue Service, PSNI, Transport NI, and ABC Council staff for their speedy response.
“When speaking to residents they raised concerns about lack of communication amongst the agencies, particularly as no specific agency took leadership. The SDLP will raise their concerns about lack of management in a crisis.
“The flooding across the North has brought into focus the importance of a functioning Assembly. While the Emergency Financial Assistance Scheme for flood victims is in place, it doesn’t extend to local businesses and community organisations. This is something the SDLP has already asked that support could reach non-domestic properties. Farmers who have flooded buildings and hay lost are crying out for help.”
And Sinn Féin Councillor Keith Haughian has said he has serious concerns about the lack of preparations made despite a weather warning.
“The deluge of rain on Saturday has left some homes in a serious state. Homes in Deans Walk and Wakehurst were badly affected as well as in Lavery Avenue, Westwood and Kilwilke.
“We as a party have serious concerns about the lack of preparations made despite a weather warning. We will be asking serious questions about the state of our sewerage system and its capacity to deal with heavy rainfall in the future.
“Residents in several areas reported this as having happened in previous years. This is simply not good enough.”
Cllr Haughian who is also chair of the Environmental Committee on ABC council added: “We have requested a meeting with senior council staff to ascertain why there was such a lack of joined up action on Saturday.
“It’s not acceptable that these large departments were without a coordinated plan for what appears to have been an entirely predictable scenario. We will want to assurances to ensure residents don’t suffer this again,” he said thanking the NI Fire and Rescue Service and individuals from various agencies on the ground.
“The pace of the cleanup in some areas is also something we as a party are not happy about. We have been making efforts to ensure anyone who feels they are entitled to the emergency fund are able to access information and also directing NI water cleanup services to areas of need.”
DUP MLA Carla Lockhart thanked the NI Fire and Rescue Service, Housing Executive, local farmers and other members of the community who helped during the recent flooding.
She said: “Not everyone was lucky enough to escape with no damage and some are still counting the cost to their personal belongings and stock.
“The emergency and community services were overrun with the extreme nature of the rainfall but with the additional help of the farming community were able to salvage some properties by pumping the water away.
“What started as a damp Saturday morning progressed quickly to a saving and salvage operation.
“As ever we as a community are indebted to the NIFRS and NIHE who worked tirelessly to assist where possible. Special mention must also go to those farmers who brought tractors and machinery to pump water away from vulnerable homes and businesses.
“Combined with the help of many others we were able to save a lot of houses from further damage. After such a long period of good weather our drainage was overwhelmed and in the aftermath of this incident is something we need to review and see how this can be prevented from causing damage again.
“Particular attention will be turned to those properties which have been flooded before and once again experienced it, for example Carrick Mews and Union St. I will not allow the authorities to fob these people off again. The drainage in these areas needs resolved as soon as possible.”