Friday 14 December 2018

Army called in to help victims as the full extent of catastrophe emerges

Ministers of State Joe McHugh and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran at the emergency meeting to discuss the flooding in Inishowen, Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Ministers of State Joe McHugh and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran at the emergency meeting to discuss the flooding in Inishowen, Donegal. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

The army will be called in today to help with the massive clean-up operation in the wake of the torrential floods in the north-west.

Flood-hit communities in the north-west were bracing themselves after more rain was forecast - Met Éireann predicts 25mm to 40mm could have accumulated in the past 24 hours.

More than 100 people had to be rescued from cars and houses due to sudden flash flooding in Donegal, Tyrone and Derry on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More than 150 households were affected in Donegal and 200 in Derry. On Tuesday night 85 firefighters and nine brigades were working in the Inishowen area.

Floods Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran said the situation for people in Donegal was likely "to get worse before it gets better" in the coming days. "I definitely think the local authority are going to need assistance dealing with this. It's worse and worse it's getting," he said.

Mr Moran told the Irish Independent he had observed scenes where the damage posed a real health and safety risk.

He briefed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his visit to the area last night and recommended that the army should be on standby in the event Donegal County Council needs physical support. It's understood 30 members of the Defence Forces will travel to the worst hit areas this morning. Further troops could be deployed if required.

Read More: 'It's truly heartbreaking' - farmer powerless to prevent his lambs from drowning

As emergency response teams grapple with establishing the full impact of the storm, it emerged that 17 people have presented themselves as homeless in the past 24 hours.

Donegal County Council is working with the displaced families, but area manager Aideen Doherty said the problems facing them would not be resolved "overnight or in the next few weeks".

"It's going to take some time so we will be figuring out alternative accommodation for them in the interim," she said.

Director of Emergency Services with Donegal County Council Gerry Martin said it is "quiet miraculous" that there were no fatalities.

The Department of Social Protection yesterday activated its Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which will be used to provide emergency income support to families for urgent needs such as food and clothing.

Thereafter families and individuals will be assisted with replacing white goods, basic furniture items and other essential household items.

Employment and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said: "I want to reassure those affected by the flooding that my department will do everything we can to relieve the immediate stress you are now under. Our people are there, on the ground and in our offices, ready and willing to offer help."

Fianna Fáil has raised concerns that affected businesses are not entitled to similar help. Donegal TD and the party's agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said he was "extremely concerned" that business owners were not included in the Government scheme.

"The past few days have been extremely traumatic and they are anxious to get confirmation that they will get assistance from the Government," he said.

Irish Independent

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