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Storm Frank: NI hit by floods, transport disruption and power cuts

A recovery truck rescues a car on the Moira Road, Co Antrim. Picture by Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker 
Marie Louise McConville

EMERGENCY services rescued 18 people from their vehicles as strong winds and heavy rain brought by Storm Frank wreaked havoc across the north.

The Fire Service said call-outs spiked in the early hours of Wednesday with calls for assistance coming from Belfast, Randalstown, Warrenpoint, and Castlewellan.

Of 35 flood-related calls, 18 were from people who had to be rescued from their vehicles while others had to brought to safety from flooded properties.

Storm Frank also led to widespread travel disruption after heavy rain and winds of up to 80mph lashed many parts of Northern Ireland.

Emergency power teams worked into the early hours of Wednesday to restore power to about 20,000 homes and businesses after trees brought down power lines.

NIE said late on Wednesday that "almost 21,000 homes and businesses have had electricity supplies restored following the overnight gales which brought down trees, branches and other flying debris and causing damage to overhead electricity lines and poles. 

"All large groups of customers have now been restored and engineers are working through the remaining overnight faults which are affecting single homes or small numbers of homes.

"There are now estimated restoration times on these faults so customers should contact our customer helpline number for specific information on their property. NIE Networks will continue to monitor the weather forecasts over the coming days."

Some of the areas worst affected included Dromara, Castlewellan, Limavady, Portglenone, Cloughmills and Broughshane.

NIE said the worst damage to the power network happened in Fermanagh and between Limavady and Garvagh.

An emergency payment scheme for householders affected by flooding in recent days has been activated.

Environment minister Mark H Durkan urged anyone whose home had been damaged by flooding to contact their council "as soon as possible" so an "urgent inspection" could be carried out.

The heavy rains and winds also left many roads impassable.

The roads authority Transport NI said it had dealt with a total of 150 incidents overnight into Wednesday, mainly involving fallen trees.

Flights at Belfast International Airport were also cancelled due to strong winds.

In part of Co Down, half a month's rainfall fell in just three hours.

According to the Department for Regional Development, the worst affected area was around Katesbridge in south Down.

On the outskirts of Belfast, the main entrance to Roselawn Cemetery was closed as a result of flooding with visitors being asked to use a temporary entrance on the Ballygowan Road.

In addition, Victoria Park in east Belfast was also closed due to the weather, with no access from either entrance or the Sam Thompson Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service found its Purdysburn station at Knockbracken on the outskirts of Belfast affected by flooding.

Posting an image of the flood water on Facebook, a post read: "Thankfully damage to the interior has been limited to the first few feet at the entrance....We are hoping that blocked drains will be cleared soon to get us back to normal".

Elsewhere, there were a report of the roof being blown off a static caravan in Cushendall in Co Antrim.

Meanwhile, in the Republic, power crews were continuing to battle on Wednesday night to reconnect up to 13,000 householders and businesses who lost their electricity supply in areas including Cobh, Athlone and Maynooth.

There was severe flooding in Inistioge, Co Kilkenny with motorists being asked avoid the area. Local alerts were also in place highlighting the threat posed by rivers bursting their banks.

Many roads were impassable and some ferry sailings were disrupted.

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