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Anger and frustration mixed with fears of further flooding


By Stephen McVey

The flooding that devastated South Belfast last week has left residents bewildered and angry about how the agencies responsible dealt with the aftermath.A NI Water spokesperson said the extent of the flooding in South Belfast – the worst hit area in the city – was a result of three main causes: sewage problems, burst riverbanks and poor quality roads – added to gullies and drainage deficiencies.

The areas are the responsibility of NI Water, the Rivers Agency and the Department of Regional Development (DRD) respectively.

A NI Water spokesperson told the South Belfast News they had been dealing with floods that were not their responsibility.

And although they were unable to provide detailed figures at present it is thought that of the 800 homes which suffered internal flooding in Belfast, 150 of those were as a result of the sewage systems overflowing.

“From 27th June until 30th June, NI Water have dealt with 208 incidents of internal flooding. Not all of these incidents however, were attributed to NI Water infrastructure. NI Water is currently carrying out a detailed analysis of these incidents by catchment area and as such is unable at this stage to provide detailed information regarding which specific areas of flooding were attributable to our infrastructure, further detail will be available in due course.”

A DRD spokesperson said extremely heavy rainfall led to surface water flooding in a number of areas.

“This overwhelmed road gullies, storm drains and the sewer system and led to severe flash flooding of roads and properties.

“NI Water and Roads Service staff worked throughout the night of 27 June to ensure that sewers and gullies were operating effectively and, where appropriate, to assist households with a cleanup operation.  This work continued after the event.”

Meanwhile a DARD spokesperson said: “Rivers Agency, along with other agencies and organisations, responded to an extreme number of calls for assistance due to flooding in Belfast and Lisburn.

“Flooding can generally be attributed to watercourses, sewers or road flooding, with the cause of flooding sometimes being a combination of these sources. Investigations to identify the source of flooding in these areas are ongoing.”

However Maire Andrews from Marguerite Park off the Lisburn Road, whose house was left under a foot of water last Thursday, said she felt like the three agencies were passing the buck. She has now joined with other residents in the area to create The Marguerite Park Action Group’to try and lobby on their own behalf.

“At no time did I hear the words ‘we are responsible, I apologise’. They are taking an ‘it’s not our area’ stance, which is very frustrating at such a difficult time,” she said.

NI Water has argued that there was no predicting the level of rain that fell last week.

“It is worth noting, that some of the flooding, from an NI Water perspective, would not necessarily be a result of an aging infrastructure, the infrastructure could well be fit for purpose, but would not be designed for the volume of water which fell on Wednesday.”

However Maire thinks that there needs to be some clarity as to who is accountable.

“We had no sandbags or any other means to stem the flow until it was too late.

It seems like there are no emergency plans in place. On Wednesday night there was no help available whatsoever because it was impossible to get through to the emergency helpline.”

Maire and her family only moved into the house 18 months ago and were given no warning that the area was at risk of flooding.

“We have been told that the sewage system on the Lisburn Road is ancient and was not built to cope with the number of houses in the area. We were not given any indication that the house was prone to flooding when we moved in. I think that it is scandalous.

“If houses in South Belfast are going to remain as high risk flooding areas, there needs to be some warning system put in place for buyers.

“Now we will have to spend money to try and improve the house’s defences against future flooding, but at the minute I can’t think that far ahead.”

Finance minister Sammy Wilson has agreed that the executive needs to increase in investment in infrastructure.

“The First Minister has already alluded that the Executive will examine this latest incident including the poor infrastructure in place. Ministers will also have to collectively address co-ordination issues as this type of incident impacts on a number of departments.”

Despite her own difficulties, Maire empathises with other Marguerite Park residents who have seen this all before.

“The cost is going to go into thousands of pounds. We are very lucky we have insurance but other people in the area aren’t so lucky. They haven’t been able to get insured because of what has happened to them in previous years.”

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