SOME families in the Armagh City and District Council area will be forced to spend Christmas out of their homes as a result of damage caused by this week’s unprecedented flooding.
And only seven families have yet to come forward and claim the £1,000 emergency money available to help them get back on their feet.
SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon claimed some families will be out of their homes for months following the devastation and demanded that more must be done to ensure their properties and local businesses are not flooded again.
“It’s heartbreaking to see a family home devastated by floods,” he said. “It’s more than just damage to the building or furniture; in many cases it’s the small items which are irreplaceable because of their sentimental value.
‘The rain witnessed last Monday night was horrific and, whilst many were in their bed not knowing what was going on, there were families across the district battling to save their homes and contents.
“On Tuesday morning I received calls from people in the Tassagh, Lislea, Armagh City and Portadown Road areas pleading for help as they explained the horrific ordeal they had gone through.
“I have been contacted by one family who, only for the swift action of neighbours, didn’t have their home flooded, but were told by Roads Service that they were too busy to attend.
“In other cases water did get into a house in the Portadown Road in Armagh and that family will be out of their home for months – their lovely home has just been destroyed.
“In Tassagh, the local Post Office was filled with thousands of gallons of water as it reached a metre high at one stage. Numerous other homes on the Dundrum Road and in the Lislea area were flooded with dirty, silty water. These homes are destroyed. Local residents tell me in this area there hasn’t been flooding like this is Tassagh in over 40 years.
“I know we’ll be told this was a freak event and the weather wasn’t predicted, but surely we need to be prepared. I have set up a range of meetings with officials from across the Rivers Agency and DRD Roads Service in the coming weeks to try and ensure this doesn’t happen again and to see what preparations can be made to ensure the emergency response is much more appropriate.
“However I do want to place on record a few thanks to people who acted very quickly. I made a few quick calls on Tuesday morning and a number of agencies took very swift action. The council’s own operational services team came out and mechanically swept the Dundrum Road, Tassagh, as it was completely covered in debris and silt, as the Callan River had burst its banks at a number of locations. The council took away over seven tons of waste on Tuesday alone and they were back again on Wednesday.
“As it happened, I was on my way to a meeting in Parliment Buildings in Stormont and arranged for an emergency meeting with SDLP Environment Minister Mark H Durkan MLA and, following that, he set in place the £1000 emergency payment available to householders whose homes were flooded.
“This is funded by DOE and available through the council’s environmental health department to all damaged households, irrespective if a separate claim on the house insurances is being made.
“The floods may have gone, but the damage is very plain to see and some families face being out of their homes for Christmas.
“To date the council has processed seven emergency payments and I know there are more claims to come in. I would encourage anyone whose home was flooded to contact Paul Swift in the council’s environmental health department as soon as possible so we can ensure those who are entitled to and need the payment get it as soon as possible.”