Department defends response to floods

The flooding on the Lecky Road last night. (Picture by Frnakie McMenamin)
The flooding on the Lecky Road last night. (Picture by Frnakie McMenamin)

The Department of Infrastructure has defended its operations during the storms following claims there had been difficulties in getting people to go on standby.

A local source has claimed that only a couple of people had answered the call from the department’s rivers section for staff to go on stand-by following the weather alert last Tuesday.

It has also been claimed that on-call workers have to be ready for an emergency, and if called upon, are then paid for services, but otherwise are only entitled to around £5. He added that this was putting people off going on call.

The source said that the “severe cuts” being imposed across government departments were actually costing money in the long run as the repair bill in this instance will be mounting for home owners and government following the floods.

He claimed: “We think that emergencies are covered when, in reality, there was only a few people on cover.”

In its initial response to the claims, however, a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said that across the wider region they had dozens of people on stand-by.

She said: “On Tuesday morning, following the issue of a yellow warning covering all of Northern Ireland, the Department placed 94 staff on call in the western regions including Londonderry and other areas in the west and north west most affected by recent flooding.

“On Tuesday evening over 60 per cent of the average rainfall for August fell within an eight to nine hours period resulting in widespread flooding and unprecedented flows in numerous watercourses across the north west. As it is difficult to predict with certainty the exact locations of these heavy, thundery downpours, staff remained vigilant to enable them to provide a flexible response which focussed on the areas most impacted by the flooding.

“The Department has in place well established arrangements with other departments and response organisations to provide multi-agency support to communities affected by flooding and at this time the Department’s standby rotas were immediately augmented by staff deployed from other areas and assisted by Derry and Strabane Council, Causeway Coast and Glens Council, private contractors and the emergency services. Since Tuesday evening, the Department has continued to distribute sand bags, monitor and assess river levels and weather patterns, assess damage to the roads infrastructure and reopen roads as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, the council has confirmed that over £250,000 in emergency fund assistance has been paid out to those impacted by the foods across Derry and Strabane.

By Sunday evening up to £270,000 has been paid out.

The council has now received over 560 requests for assistance under the Emergency Payment Scheme, which was made available by the Department for Communities to assist those worst affected by the floods in the city and district.

Grants of up to £1,000 have been issued to residents affected by the flooding, which devastated some parts of the city and district.

A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council said: “Council in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies has been working in close collaboration throughout the Bank Holiday weekend to deal with the clean-up operation and to provide a wide range of support and assistance for those affected. Technical staff from the council have visited 98% of the properties that are registered and priority has being given to continue that work in the coming days to complete inspections and advance with payments to those affected.”