Flood disaster recalled - 25 years on

The extent of the floods in Strabane town centre in October 1987. (1610MM08)
The extent of the floods in Strabane town centre in October 1987. (1610MM08)

Next week marks the 25th anniversary of the floods which left Strabane town centre under water after the River Mourne burst its banks. On Thursday October 22, after hours of torrential rain the River Mourne burst its banks at 2am, flooding the town centre within minutes.

The flooding started in the Lower Main Street and Railway Street areas and quickly spread to other parts of the town centre, leaving Abercorn Square and surrounding streets partially submerged. At its height, there was up to three feet of water in Abercorn Square.

(1610PG09)

(1610PG09)

Dozens of people had to be rescued from their homes and businesses with many taken to safety by boat.

A number of families in Lower Main Street were trapped in their homes for several hours before rescue teams from the RUC, British army and Strabane Sub Aqua Club managed to take people to safety.

Shop owners in the city centre tried to secure their premises with sandbags but as the flood waters rose many businesses became swamped.

At the time business leaders in the town estimated that the damage ran into millions of pounds.

The flood damage was so bad that civic and community leaders called for the area to be declared a disaster zone.

Foyle MP John Hume raised the issue at Westminster and said Strabane warranted treatment as a “disaster area.”

Local councillor, the late Ivan Barr said at the time: “The British authorities should also make provision to compensate financially all of those who have suffered damage to property and household furnishings as a result of the flooding, the worst of which could have been prevented if the DoE had carried out remedial maintenance to the water wall and river banks.”

Strabane was not the only area in the North West to be hit by the flooding but it was by far the worst affected. In Derry there was flooding in the Strand Road area and a number of houses at Dunvale Park, off Duncreggan Road, were flooded when an agricultural storm drain burst. There were also flooding problems at Culmore and pupils had to be sent home from St Joseph’s School in Creggan because the Creggan Burn was flooded.