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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 12:08 GMT
Schools hit by severe weather
Roads Service crews worked throughout the night
Severe weather conditions have forced thousands of Northern Ireland pupils to stay away from school.

Heavy snow and ice have again caused major problems for drivers and transport services.

On Tuesday, snow ploughs and gritters were out in force in an attempt to keep the roads passable, but there were difficulties on many routes.

Dozens of schools were forced to close across Northern Ireland due to transport, heating and catering problems.

I would have to pay credit to the people who responded - especially the retained firefighters who were involved in this call-out

Archie McKay
Firefighter

Some of the worst affected roads were in the Mid Ulster area around Cookstown and Magherafelt, where up to four inches of snow fell overnight.

Snow drifts formed on some hill roads.

Heavy snow also fell on the A1 dual carriageway near Dromore, County Down.

Very icy conditions were reported around Omagh and Enniskillen.

Roads on high ground around Lisburn were also in a poor condition.

House fire

The Glenshane Pass opened on Tuesday morning, but was only passable with extreme care.

Several flights were delayed and the Met Office has forecast more snow showers for all parts, especially in northern, eastern and central areas,

Over the last two nights about 400,000 has been spent on trying to keep traffic moving

Dr Andrew Murray
Roads Service

A spokesman said there would be further wintery showers on Tuesday night and cold conditions would lead to widespread ice.

In County Antrim, the weather caused problems for firefighters who rescued a man from a house fire in Portglenone.

Station officer Archie McKay said the crew had to cope with treacherous conditions en route to the blaze.

"When getting out to the call, the conditions in Ahoghill and Portglenone were absolutely atrocious and I would have to pay credit to the people who responded - especially the retained firefighters who were involved in this call-out," he said.

"They first of all had to make it to the fire stations to get the fire engines out."

A spokesman for the Roads Service said their crews had been working through the night, using gritters and snow ploughs to keep roads clear.

Dr Andrew Murray of the Roads Service said it had covered all the main roads in Northern Ireland.

He said over the last two nights about 400,000 had been spent on trying to keep traffic moving.

Roads Service vehicle
Many NI roads were impassable

SDLP assembly member Eamonn O'Neill, who met the minister in charge of regional development, Angela Smith, on Monday to discuss the situation on the roads, said more needed to be done.

"First of all, we need to ensure that our present system is effective and efficient," he said.

Police have warned motorists of long delays after a 38 ton lorry skidded into a bank in Lisburn.

Diversions are in place and there are tailbacks on the Braniel Road towards the Hillhall Road.

All Ulsterbus services experienced delays on Tuesday morning - especially the Maiden City Flyer service which covers the Glenshane Pass.

Citybus is currently running a full service, however some services were earlier affected.

Stena Line said due to bad weather, several HSS sailings on the Belfast-Stranraer route had been cancelled.

Passengers have been advised to contact the company.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Noreen Erskine:
"250 tonnes of salt was spread on roads in the Greater Belfast area"
Dr Andrew Murray of the Roads Service:
"It's difficult to predict when and where the snow will fall"
See also:

03 Feb 03 | Talking Point
03 Feb 03 | N Ireland
01 Feb 03 | N Ireland
29 Jan 03 | UK
15 Jan 03 | Scotland
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