Residents of Ballymagowan Avenue in Creggan have hit out at Apex Housing after disaster was narrowly averted at the weekend following the effects of Storm Desmond on the city.
People living in the estate were awoken in the early hours of Saturday morning by the sound of mud laden flood water cascading from fields behind their homes and into their backyards.
The prompt action of statutory agencies and people in the community narrowly averted the water entering the homes when sandbags were deposited at the entrances of some of the houses at most risk of flooding. At one point on Saturday night as the persistent rain continued the Northern Ireland Fire Service attended the scene.
One resident, mother of four Tracy McGavigan, explained how water was continuously pouring into her back garden and past the houses. Then, due to ground saturation the water gathering at the front of the homes started to move back towards the front doors.
“We were exhausted because we stayed up all night. We were sleeping in chairs at the backdoors waiting for the water to pour in she said. This was a shocking experience that lasted 24 hours, but we didn’t know when it was going to stop,” she said.
Residents also reported that the water came through from the adjoining land that potatoes from the field were deposited in their gardens and at one point mice scurried through the front street from the fields.
Apex Housing did attend the scene on Saturday and provided sandbags, as did maintenance crew from Derry City and Strabane District Council as wel, as the Rivers Agency. However Tracy McGavigan said that she and other residents felt that as the owners of the properties the response from Apex was slow.
“I think Apex weren’t prepared for this despite the fact the bad weather had been forecast,” she said.
In response to questions from the ‘Journal’ a spokesperson from Apex said: “Apex has no responsibility for the drainage in the potato field behind Ballymagowan which had been ploughed in the direction of the estate allowing tor the exceptional water run-off to be channelled down the furrows towards the houses. Apex has staff on duty 24/7 who responded at the scene and who called on the resources of our response maintenance contractor. His team assisted in the distribution of sandbags. No houses were flooded in this case but silt was deposited around some of the properties. We are now speaking to the local farmer to put in place measures that will direct any future surface water away from the boundary.”
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said that he had been contacted by residents of Ballymagowan who were in a state of panic about the possibility of their homes flooding.
He said: “A video sent to me showed excessive water running off neighbouring land into their gardens at such velocity that I actually feared the collapse of the retaining wall. I was able to contact the Floodline team as a result of which workers were desptached with sandbags to protect them. I also contacted Apex who attended the scene and I have subsequently informed then that I believe they have work to do now to prevent this happening again. I support and will actively participate in any muti-agency initiative to address this issue and give these residents peace of mind.”
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said that residents in the area had told him they felt the response to the situation “wasn’t great.”
“Residents felt frustrated and abandoned especially since the weather had been predicted, But, the community rallied around in the early hours of the morning and the water was prevented from entering the houses by the intervention of residents who used sandbags to divert the water, but it has left a problem with mud and sludge being deposited which had to be cleaned up,” he said.
Tracv McGavigan told the ‘Journal’: “It was so heavy on Saturday morning that I thought at first someone left the garden hose on. In the dark I thought it was clear rain water but when it got light I could see the colour of it.”