02 December 2005

Floods force people out of homes


Rescue workers at the floods on the Ormeau Road

People living in the lower Ormeau area of south Belfast are spending the night out of their homes after their houses were flooded from torrential rain.

In places the water mixed with raw sewage and many residents have decided to move out until repairs can be carried out.

Some fear it could be the New Year before they can move back in.

Emergency crews have spent the day dealing with the damage caused by floods in the greater Belfast area.

The south and east of the city was the worst affected and six people had to be rescued by firefighters.

By mid-morning on Thursday, flooding was reported at Castlereagh Road, Park Road and Shawsbridge Road. These areas are now completely clear.

The Water Service, Roads Service, the Rivers Agency, Belfast City Council and the Fire Service all mobilised workers in an emergency operation.

Throughout the day more than 60 workers have been pumping out water and clearing gullies.

River Terrace off Cooke Street in the lower Ormeau Road was severely flooded, and the situation has not improved. Many residents are now without power.

About 40 homes in River Terrace were affected.

A Department of Regional Development spokeswoman said there were indications that pumps were operating normally at River Terrace pumping station.

The Housing Executive said it had been assisting in dealing with severe flooding in the lower Ormeau Area where 130 homes had been affected, one third of which belong to the Executive.

It said it had been meeting political and community representatives to discuss what needed to be done about the situation and was also dealing with requests for temporary accommodation.

Firefighters rescued six people in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast.

Divisional Officer Ken Leathem said: "With waters rising to three and four feet the Fire & Rescue Service's Specialist Rescue Team was deployed with a search and rescue boat to bring a family of two adults and two children to safety from their home in Cooke Street.

"A man who uses a wheelchair was also brought to the safety of his relatives by our firefighters from his Balfour Avenue home.

"In a third flooding related incident, in the lower Ormeau area another man was also rescued from his car."

A group of nursery school children near the Ormeau Road in south Belfast had to be carried to safety after a sewer outside the school burst.

Flooding caused traffic problems in Castlereagh

Cornelia McCluskey, playgroup leader at St Malachy's playgroup, said she had to ensure that the children escaped after the area became flooded.

"I have had to carry children through raw sewage to get them out of the building myself," she said.

Residents in the lower Ormeau were stranded and could not get back to their cars.

"I've been waiting 20 minutes, trying to get back to my car," said Anne Mallon.

"I have a dog in it and the flood waters seem to be rising."

Margaret McCormac who lives in the area was trying to sweep the flood waters out of her home.

"The sewers are blocked, raw sewage is floating into the house," she said.

"It really stinks. It is the third time we have been flooded. It is absolutely ridiculous."

Counties Down and Antrim and Belfast city centre were the worst affected by the heavy rain.

Many roads, including part of the M2 motorway, were closed because of the heavy rain.

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