'I had to think about my children' - rats force young family from 'dream' home
A mother of two children forced to flee their home in the Bogside area of Derry because of a relentless rat infestation has welcomed a multi-agency agreement to tackle the problem head on.
Shauna Gill moved into her home in Elmwood Road in October 2016 with her husband and two children aged 12 and four but within three weeks, what had been her dream home became a nightmare.
She is one of a number of families plagued with a persistent rat infestation across a number of streets in the which was the subject of a multi-agency meeting held between the Housing Executive, Environmental Health, Apex housing, NI Water and local community groups to see what measures could be put in place to tackle the problem.
Despite previous efforts to get rid of the rats by the Housing Executive the pests have persisted to the extent that Mrs Gill is now staying with family members.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Gill said: “Three weeks after we moved into our house we noticed a really bad smell which we thought was a fault in the way the washing machine had been plumbed.
“When we lifted the floorboard we found a dead rat. After that there was nothing which was grand but we were decorating the house bit by bit and when we went to decorate an extension we noticed the same smell and I knew right away it was another rat.
“From February 2017 to July we took out another nine dead rats from our attic.
“So many nights we lay listening to rats running around the attic and up and down in between the wall cavity. My two children were terrified and at times it was that bad we went to family to stay.
“We had to throw out everything that was in the attic including all the mementos of the children from they were babies and also our wedding album because you hear so much about the diseases you can get from where a rat has been.
“Eventually it got to be more than I could take, I had to think about my children so we left the house and are now staying with family until we can be re-housed.
“We had such high hopes when we moved into that house, we spent a lot of money decorating it and doing work on it but I could never feel comfortable or relaxed in it again.”
Councillor for the area Patrica Logue arranged for the different agencies to meet yesterday to discuss the problem.
She said: We have heard some horror stories of local families affected by rat infestation in their homes, and rats in gardens and behind resident’s homes.
“Last year I held a number of agency meetings along with local residents to see what measures could be put in place to jointly address this problem.
“A number of measures were put in place at that time but clearly it didn’t fully resolve the issue and once again we have residents living on their nerves when rats get into their homes and others are fearful to go into their gardens and backyards even to leave out the rubbish.
“It is very clear this is not a problem caused by a few bags of discarded rubbish, it's much bigger than that.”
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said it had already been working hard to find a solution to the problem.
She said: “Senior officials attended a public meeting and have agreed to flush out the drainage lines associated with our properties and put CCTV through the drainage lines to inspect for damage.
“There are two Housing Executive properties affected in the Abbots Walk area. Work has been completed to one property in the area, which is currently being monitored.
“We will continue to work with other statutory agencies and pest control specialists to find a solution to these ongoing problems.”