Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Sunday, 17 August 2008 15:40 UK

Floods prompt emergency meeting

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Scenes of flooding and subsequent cleaning up in Northern Ireland

An emergency meeting has taken place at Stormont between ministers and relevant agencies in the aftermath of Saturday's flooding.

A clean-up operation is under way in Northern Ireland after torrential rain caused floods in many areas.

Rivers burst their banks and countless roads were impassable, leaving motorists stranded. Others had to abandon their cars in flood water.

Hundreds of homes and businesses were also badly damaged.

Those affected will be able to apply for government compensation.

Donaghcloney cricket pitch and club house in County Armagh (picture by David McCullough)
Many sporting events were washed out

In County Down, damage to the Fofanny water treatment works has left thousands of householders with reduced or no water supply.

Flood victims will be able to apply for government compensation.

As much as three-quarters of the August rainfall fell on Saturday.

Teams from Northern Ireland Water, the Roads Service and the Rivers Agency worked through the night.

Many people had to rescued from their homes and the USPCA has reported numerous livestock deaths as a result of the flooding.

The newly constructed Broadway Underpass in Belfast was at one stage under 20ft of water.

A section of the central barrier had to be cut with angle-grinders to allow traffic to be turned away.

The fire service has said it is pumping 7,000 litres a minute from the underpass.

Flooding on the Westlink taken from Grosvenor tower (picture by Ruba Awawdeh)
A fire engine makes its way through flood water in Belfast

It is believed there are cars stuck under the water after people fled their vehicles as the water level rose.

The fire service's Kevin O'Neill said it was the most severe flooding he had ever dealt with.

"We have had all our crews out since virtually two o'clock yesterday afternoon and all through the night dealing with incidents relating to flood water," he said.

"I don't think we've either seen a time when the flooding has been as devastating as this or has affected the road transport as badly."

In Newcastle, County Down, about 80 people had to seek shelter overnight in a community centre on the seaside town's promenade.

Martin Todd, who is director of recreation with Down District Council said people arrived in their pyjamas and dressing gowns.

Young girl in flood water (picture by David Cleland)
A young girl retrieves a toy in the Maze, County Antrim

"At about two o'clock this morning, the river at the back of the caravan parks in Newcastle burst its banks and flooded a large number of caravans.

"The police and the coastguard evacuated people to the Newcastle Centre and the coastguard organised sleeping bags and we laid out our karate and gym mats for people to sleep on."

In the Bryansford Road area of Newcastle, a lifeboat was used to bring residents to safety after water reached waist level.

"It happened so fast that they had no chance to do any sandbagging or anything, so they just had to come out of their houses," said Ian Douthwaite of the RNLI.

"There were a lot of people who were fairly distressed about having to leave their property with their belongings floating around."

An Antrim woman has been describing how she, her husband and her son were trapped in their house as flood waters rose to over 10ft.

Antrim
Lesley O'Hagan took this view from her flooded house in Antrim

Lesley O'Hagan from Meadowside said the Sixmilewater River broke its banks and flooded their street.

"The water was as high as the pumping station outside," she said.

"It came right into our home and came halfway up the stairs. Our fridge freezer was floating in the water," she said.

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson said those affected could expect to receive around 1,000 in compensation, but the figure has yet to be finalised.

"Councils will be notified of the scheme on Monday so that people will be able to make applications," he said.

Last summer the Northern Ireland Executive gave just over 1m to victims of flooding.




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