By Alan Healy
A number of families have been forced to leave their homes in Derry because of a rat infestation they claim has plagued the area for a number of years.
The Derry News was has spoken to several families and people living in the Bogside area who say their lives are being made a misery by vermin which have infested their homes.
In one instance, a mother-of-two abandoned her home for four months after discovering ten dead rats in her house.
Meanwhile, another woman said that she was forced to leave her home for seven weeks after a rat scurried over her feet while she was making food in her kitchen.
A housing association has now said that a local pest control agency is being brought in to deal with the infestation.
One of the worst affected areas is a section of Lisfannon Park, where the Derry News met with householders who said they are now considering leaving their homes permanently if the problem is not addressed.
A number of residents have also caught rats using traps in recent weeks, but said that the measures they are using are simply not enough to stop the rodents coming into their homes.
However, the Derry News has learned that the problem has spread to other streets in the area, including Durrow Park, Elmwood Street and Joseph Place, Derry.
One resident of Elmwood Street, Shauna Gill, was forced to flee her home for 18 weeks after the problem became ‘unbearable’ in July of last year.
“I first moved into the house in October 2016, and we had problems with rats from the start,” she said.
“What made me really angry was that I later discovered that there had been rats in the property prior to me moving in, which I found out through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, and raised my concerns with the Housing Executive that this is something that should have been dealt with before we moved in.”
The problem steadily worsened, however, leaving Shauna with no option but to leave her home.
“The worst was when we found ten dead rats, and there was a lot more running about,” she added.
“One night, we were having dinner in the kitchen and the smell was just unbearable. We had found them dead under the living room floor so it was obviously another one which had died and we couldn’t stand it any more so I just lifted the children and left.”
Angela Connolly, who lives in Lisfannon Park, said that the problem in her home first started two years ago, adding that it is now so bad that she has difficulty sleeping at night due to noise of rats.
“You are constantly being woke up by the noise of them scurrying about in the walls and the roof space, it’s just awful,” she said.
“It spoiled our Christmas, just knowing that they’re in the house with you.
“We caught one in a trap there last week, and it was massive.
“The infestation, and it is an infestation, not just a few rats running about, has been going on for years.”
Bernadette Anderson, who also lives in Lisfannon Park with her four children said she had also caught a rat in her hall, adding that several other homes in the street were also affected.
However, the Derry News has learned that the problem has spread to other streets in the area, including Durrow Park, Elmwood Road and Joseph Place, Derry.
The Derry News spoke to Leona O’Donnell who was forced to leave her home in Joseph Place a short distance away after an infestation.
“I was standing in the kitchen making food and a rat ran over my feet,” she told the Derry News.
“That was awful. There were coming in through a cavity on my wall and I moved out for seven weeks, I just couldn’t bear it after that.”
Commenting, the independent councillor for the area, Gary Donnelly, described the extent of the infestation as ‘shocking’.
He also called on housing associations not to deal with the problem in isolation, but to work with both each other and private landlords to ensure that a permanent solution is found.
“The amount of properties affected in the area is shocking, and we’ve reached the point where people are being forced out of their homes,” he said.
“Many of those affected are young families with children and there is a real risk here to health as these vermin spread diseases.
“I would be calling on the Housing Executive, Apex and private landlords to now work together to address this, given that some of the properties which are infested are located on the same terrace.”
In a statement issued to the Derry News, spokesperson for the Housing Executive said that it had not received any reports relating to the issue, but would be investigating the complaints.
“The local office has not received any reports of this nature from tenants in the area, in fact the last reported incident was in May 2014,” the spokesperson said.
“However, we have now arranged for a maintenance officer to visit the area.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Apex Housing Association, which has responsibility for one of the houses impacted, said that it has employed a pest control contractor to deal with the matter.
“Apex is aware that there may be a problem in the area and over recent weeks has employed North West Pest Control to address any specific issues within our dwelling,” the spokesperson said.
As the Apex property is mid-terrace other private landlords, the Housing Executive and owner occupiers living along the terrace should take similar measures if they have concerns.”
A video showing one of the rats after it was captured can be watched below:
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