Northwest floods: Defence Forces to be deployed amid fresh weather warning

Interagency meeting to take place Friday morning as humanitarian fund is set up

Drone footage recorded on the 23rd August shows the aftermath of the heavy rainfall at Swan's Park in Buncrana up to Cockhill Bridge and beyond. Video: Windy Day Media

 

The Defence Forces will deploy personnel to Donegal on Friday morning amid warnings of further rain in flood-stricken areas.

Thirty members of the 28th Infantry Battalion, local soldiers based at Finner Camp just outside Buncrana, are to be deployed in an “aid to civil authority” role and will assist in the clearance of debris.

It comes on foot of an official request for assistance from Donegal County Council on Thursday evening. The troops will be deployed to areas in Buncrana and Burnfoot.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe confirmed the deployment and said additional support would be considered at an interagency meeting due to take place at 10am Friday.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his shock at the extent of the damage.

Speaking in a video message posted to his Twitter account, Mr Varadkar said he had been briefed on efforts to address the fallout and confirmed the Department of Social Protection had activated its €10 million humanitarian assistance programme.

“What that does is provide immediate financial support to people who need it; people who need to buy personal items, clothes, things like that,” he said.

A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a river after a road collapsed in Iskaheen, Co Donegal after heavy rain left a trail of destruction. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A man looks at a tractor which has fallen into a river after a road collapsed in Iskaheen, Co Donegal after heavy rain left a trail of destruction. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s Department of Infrastructure (DoI) said regional community resilience groups had been advised of weather patterns, and were prepared to respond to any additional flooding that might occur.

It said more than 8,000 sandbags had been distributed since Tuesday.

“Stocks are being replenished in sandbags stores in the north west in preparation for any further possible flooding and these will be made available in locations where there is an imminent risk to life or risk of significant damage to property from flooding.”

Met Éireann issued another heavy rainfall warning for Donegal on Thursday afternoon, saying accumulated rainfall had the potential to reach 25-40mm in the county in the next 24 hours, while the northwest would see further spells of heavy rain throughout Thursday and Friday.

The status yellow warning is valid from 6pm on Thursday to 6pm on Friday in a county where almost 10cm of rain fell in just a few hours a couple of days previously.

A collapsed road at Quigley’s Point in Co Donegal after thunderstorms. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
A collapsed road at Quigley’s Point in Co Donegal after thunderstorms. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Gardai relayed warnings of “very heavy rain expected in Donegal and surrounding areas” on Thursday night, imploring motorists not to drive through flooded roads which may be damaged.

In Derry, 465 householders have registered with Derry City and Strabane District Council as in need of the emergency payment scheme, which provides up to £1,000 for immediate repairs to make flood-hit homes habitable.

Hundreds of staff from the council, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the NI Fire and Rescue Service and the DoI are on the ground in affected areas attempting to pump away excess water, reopen roads and clean out homes and businesses.

The worst affected areas are Drumahoe just outside Derry, where the River Faughan burst its banks, and Eglinton in Co Derry.

More than 30 roads were still affected by flooding on Thursday, or had been identified as damaged by the DoI.

Work was continuing to repair the main A5 Derry to Strabane road, which has been impassable since Tuesday. The the DoI anticipated it would be open by Friday afternoon.

Chickens killed

Moy Park, a major chicken producer in Co Tyrone, lost 55,000 adult birds in the flash floods, according to reports in the Belfast-based News Letter.

The company, one of Europe’s leading poultry producers, told the newspaper two of its suppliers had experienced livestock losses and damage to property. It was now working with the farmers to amend the situation, it said.

A spokesperson for the company could not be reached for comment.

Minister for Social ProtectionRegina Doherty confirmed her department had activated the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme for people whose home had been damaged by flooding and who cannot meet the repair costs.

The scheme covers expenses such as replacing damaged household items, food and clothing as well as structural damage caused to buildings. This assistance is means tested.

Cockhill Bridge in Buncrana, Co Donegal after extreme weather event. Photograph: Brian Hutton/PA Wire
Cockhill Bridge in Buncrana, Co Donegal after extreme weather event. Photograph: Brian Hutton/PA Wire

More than 100 people had to be rescued from cars and houses due to flash flooding in Donegal, Tyrone and Derry on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Scores of houses in Co Donegal and Derry were flooded.

While no one was seriously injured, a number of people had a lucky escape including a group of people who were crossing the main road in the village of Drumahoe, outside Derry, when a section of the road collapsed into the water.

About two-thirds of the average rain for August fell in nine hours, turning roads into torrents, swelling rivers by 15ft in places and washing away vehicles, roads and bridges.

Emergency meeting

An emergency meeting of Inishowen Municipal Authority was held Thursday in a bid to tackle the ongoing crisis and to form a plan to help families.

Donegal County Council director of services for roads and transportation, John McLaughlin, said: “Money won’t be an obstacle here. We will do our best. We will not hold back. We have a responsibility to this area.”

The meeting was told that a total of 17 families had been left homeless.

Aideen Doherty, the area manager for housing and corporate services, said: “We have offered B&B services, but most are staying with close family and friends. We are in constant dialogue with these people.”

The council also said it would provide humidifiers and skips to anyone who asked for them.

The Government has not yet revealed details of emergency funding to repair roads and bridges in Co Donegal. Authorities on both sides of the Border estimated that millions of euro worth of damage was caused during torrential rain and flooding on Tuesday night.

Government Chief Whip and local TD Joe McHugh welcomed the opening of the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme, and said emergency funding was also needed to restore six major bridges and roads back to working order.

It follows the announcement of a similar support scheme by Northern Irish authorities on Wednesday.

“There are a number of other areas where people have been cut off and access needs to be restored as soon as possible… I will be working with Cabinet colleagues to seek an emergency fund to deal with all these issues in the days ahead,” Mr McHugh said.

“Family homes have been destroyed in the flood waters and the effect on homeowners is devastating.”

‘Catastrophic damage’

Earlier today Minister of State for Flood Relief Kevin “Boxer” Moran described the damage inflicted by the floods as “catastrophic”.

Clean up operations under way at Cockhill Bridge in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Photograph: Brian Hutton/PA Wire
Clean up operations under way at Cockhill Bridge in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Photograph: Brian Hutton/PA Wire

Speaking from Donegal on Thursday, the Independent Alliance Minister he had never experienced anything like the flooding in Donegal following the torrential rain on Tuesday,

“This is catastrophic,” he told RTÉ Morning Ireland. “The Government will not be found wanting.”

Brendan O’Donnell, a senior road engineer for Donegal County Council, said it was too early to estimate the cost of the damage.

He said the council’s focus was on restoring the county’s main arterial routes as information was still being gathered on damage to secondary routes and bridge collapses.

Mr O’Donnell said Donegal has 6,500km of roads “so there is quite a job to do.”

He added the county council would not be able to cover the cost of repairs to roads from its own resources. Some areas reportedly remain inaccessible.

Questions have been raised about the response of the authorities on both sides of the Border to the flooding.

Mr O’Donnell rejected criticism that the council had not provided support for some families.

“Our housing service is on the ground. They may not have got to all residents for one to one meetings, but they telephoned when they could,” he said.

“We have to see what we’re dealing with, to see the scale of the problem. There are stretched resources. The fire service, the road crews were out all day yesterday.”

Any affected by flood damage can call the following numbers for assistance:

Donegal County Council: (074) 91 53900

Derry Strabane Council: (048) 71 253 253

For information on Exceptional Needs Payments for flood damage call the Department of Social Protection, Buncrana office: (074) 93 64600