Flooding in Foyle Road on Saturday. (Image courtesy of Aodhán Roberts)
Torrential rain which led to flash flooding in Derry has highlighted infrastructural failings in the city, which experienced similar events in August 2004 and 2017.
The deluge started at approximately six o'clock on Saturday afternoon and resulted in severe flooding in Strand Road, Bogside, both ends of Craigavon Bridge, Gransha Roundabout and Creggan, as well as the village of Eglinton.
A video circulating on social media also showed flooding in a major homewares store in the Faustina Retail Park on the Buncrana Road.
In addition, there were reports of a mini tornado at a caravan park in the popular County Derry tourist destination of Benone. Eye witnesses reported caravans and tents being toppled, with "some ripped and practically destroyed".
Altnagelvin Hospital Emergency Department was forced to operate at emergency attendance only, due to flooding. People with non-emergency conditions were advised to attend the urgent care and treatment centre at the Omagh Hospital Primary Care Complex.
Speaking to Derry News, Derry City and Strabane District councillor, Emmet Doyle (Aontú), said it was clear some areas of the city needed better water infrastructure.
Cllr Doyle said: “Saturday's rain accumulated so quickly it took many by surprise. I have to pay tribute to our co-ordinator at council and all the emergency services who worked flat out to try and respond to as many issues in the City as possible, they responded to my requests for sandbags in some areas very quickly.
“However, it is clear some areas of the city like Strand Road and Lecky Road still need to be prioritised for better water infrastructure.
“Residents should remain vigilant over the next while for any busted manhole covers or slippery surfaces whilst agencies seek to address the aftermath.”
The Met Office subsequently issued a Yellow Rain Warning for the North, which was valid from 12 noon until 9.00pm on Sunday and Derry City and Strabane District Council issued a number of emergency numbers on all of its social media platforms.
Reiterating Cllr Doyle's call for improved infrastructure, SDLP MLA, Mark H Durkan, called on Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey (Sinn Féin) to urgently activate the Emergency Payment Scheme for Flooding to enable householders to take immediate action to protect their homes.
Mr Durkan said: “It has been a desperate and difficult time for people across the North West who spent Saturday night fighting flooding to protect their, and their neighbours’, homes and property.
"The result of heavy rain over the last 24 hours is destruction and major disruption in communities across Derry and Strabane. I have written to the Communities Minister this morning asking her to urgently activate the Emergency Payment Scheme for Flooding to get money to householders who are desperately trying to protect their homes or clean up the mess they have been left with.
“People from across our districts have shown immense community spirit Saturday and Sunday and I want to thank them for it. From firefighters doing everything they can to rescue people and prevent the destruction of property to people who went out of their way to provide their neighbours with sandbags and support.
"We now need to accelerate flood alleviation schemes and there needs to be a sharp review of flood preparedness. Many people struggled to get sandbags yesterday as flood water entered their homes and they are rightly frustrated at what has happened to them. Lessons must be learned quickly but the most important thing remains getting immediate support to those dealing with the aftermath of this,” said Mr Durkan.
His party colleague, Cllr Brian Tierney said: “Several homes and businesses have once again been affected by severe flooding and will no doubt be assessing the level of damage today [Sunday].
“Homes and businesses from Culmore to Ballycoleman estate in Strabane have been hit by this flood. Some homes have been hit for the third time in two years.
“That’s not acceptable and residents should not have to be living in fear every time it rains or there is a weather warning.
“We need to do more and accelerate work to address these issues in areas we know are prone to flooding. SDLP Cllrs are in these areas assisting residents with the clean-up, but we need more. We need appropriate protection put in place now. This can’t wait,” concluded Cllr Tierney.
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