Northern Ireland news

Pollution fears in aftermath of devastating floods

The scene on the main Derry to Moville Road close to Quigley's Point in Co Donegal as efforts continue to repair flood damage. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

ENVIRONMENTAL health officials have expressed concern about pollution in the aftermath of Monday's devastating floods in the north west.

However, efforts to assess the problem have been hampered by widespread damage to roads and the fact that much of the land remains under water.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs permanent secretary Noel Lavery said officials were working hard to mitigate any pollution problems.

“We have had reports of livestock losses and damage to farmland and properties, with the Glenelly Valley (in Co Tyrone) and the north west particularly affected.”

The storms also hit the north west's electronic infrastructure.

BT said more than 3,000 faults were reported, the highest number ever.

“Our engineers and service teams are working 24/7 on this major recovery programme. We are facing some very challenging conditions however, for example, the collapsed Claudy Bridge, where we are trying to protect the network cables running along it and maintain service,” the spokesman said.

Efforts to re-open damaged roads continued yesterday. However, police warned that further damage was being caused by motorists ignoring safety directions.

Derry police chief Gordon McCalmont said some were driving around closure signs, putting people's safety at risk.

The main Derry to Moville Road, which was partially swept away, had been re-opened to single-file traffic last night.

City of Derry Airport also re-opened with a limited service.

However, the main Derry to Strabane road remained closed.

As the full cost of the storm damage started to emerge, it was also confirmed that Donegal restaurant The Point Inn has been forced to close with the loss of 16 jobs.

Once one of the north west's most popular entertainment venues, part of the building at Quigley's Point was swept away by the floods.

Owner John McLaughlin said he had no choice but to close.

“The river behind us broke its banks and swept the back of the building away. It came through the whole building; we're up to our knees in mud," he said.

“It is a very difficult time for all of us."

Fears also grew last night following warnings of further heavy rain in north Derry and Inishowen.

The Department of Infrastructure said there could be more flooding given the heavily saturated land.

A spokesman said: “More than 8,000 sandbags have been distributed since Tuesday. Stocks are being replenished in sandbag stores in the north west in preparation for any further possible flooding."

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