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Sunday 17 December 2017

City avoids serious flooding despite fears of massive tidal surge

Belfast City Hall. Photo credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Belfast City Hall. Photo credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Belfast has avoided the serious flooding that many feared after a tidal surge came and went without breaching defences.

Other coastal parts of Northern Ireland have witnessed some localised floods as the combination of high tides and stormy weather brought waves and debris crashing on to roads and seafronts.

In Coleraine, in Co Londonderry, there were reports of flooding after the River Bann broke its banks, while on the east coast of the region, towns and villages such as Cushendall, Carnlough, Newcastle and Portaferry took a battering.

In Belfast a major multi-agency operation had been under way since yesterday to prepare residental and industrial districts on both sides of the River Lagan that were identified as being at major risk.

Walls of sandbanks were built in the densely-packed residential area of Sydenham in the east and on land around the docks on the opposite side of the shore.

But defences held firm and there were no reports of any serious flooding more than two hours after the midday high tide.

In Sydenham, sandbags had been distributed to residents through the night and many homes near the Connswater River were well fortified in preparation, with householders also moving furniture and other valuable possession to upstairs rooms.

Last night police told people to pack a bag and prepare for potential evacuation.

But trepidation turned to relief as many onlookers watched the level of the Connswater peak just a few feet short of the sandbank walls.

Feared floods in the docks area also failed to materialise, with changes to meteorological conditions overnight having seemingly spared the city.

With forecasters also warning of potential tidal surges on Sunday and Monday, the risk has only abated for today.

Ministers in the Stormont Executive convened an emergency meeting this morning to discuss the response to the flood threat.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is co-ordinating a major planning operation involving many public services.

The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Rivers Agency, Belfast Health Trust, Road Service, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Electricity, British Telecom and travel operator Translink have been co-operating.

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