Northern Ireland

Food and medicine airlifted to snowbound residents

Main Road to Feystown, above Glenarm in County Antrim Image copyright Paul Faith
Image caption Hundreds of farmers and rural residents are still suffering the effects of the heavy snow in Northern Ireland
Reporter films car in snow drift
Image caption Homes and businesses are still without electricity. Repair teams are having difficulty reaching some parts due to "impassable roads"
Snowy fields beyond a gate
Image caption Many sheep farmers have been unable to get food supplies to their livestock and are facing significant losses
Woman fights blizzard on Cushendall Road Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The first minister, Peter Robinson, has suggested the executive may look at ways of compensating farmers
Man walks on closed road in Cargan in the Glens of Antrim Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A number of roads throughout Northern Ireland have been closed because of the weather conditions
Man clears snow from his car in North Belfast Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Roads Service said heavy snow accumulations have particularly affected the north east, with drifting of up to 15 inches (40cms) reported
People walking on snowy road in N belfast Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police are advising motorists not to travel on roads affected by snow unless absolutely necessary
People walking on snowy road in N belfast Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A full list of affected roads is on the TrafficwatchNI website

Medication and food are being delivered by helicopter to people left snowbound by the severe weather in Northern Ireland.

The emergency services, Red Cross, RAF and others are working together to provide basic supplies to people snowed in for days.

The first minister has suggested the executive may look at how to compensate farmers who have lost livestock.

About 50 properties are still without power.

Food boxes containing bread and milk are being airlifted to rural residents.

In a statement on Monday night, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: "We are all working hard to get the supplies to those in areas where vehicular access is difficult.

"Some of these people have now been snowed in for four days and it is vital we ensure they have adequate food and medical supplies.

"While there has been an improvement in conditions in many areas, there are still hazardous conditions in a number of areas."

The organisations working together include the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, mountain rescue teams, road service and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Representatives from local councils, electricity providers, health providers and volunteers are also involved.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has been asked if it can use military helicopters to help drop food parcels to animals stranded by the snow.

Many sheep farmers have been unable to get food supplies to their livestock.

Farmer Campbell Tweed, from Cairncastle, near Larne, in County Antrim, said some of his sheep were getting their first feed in four days.

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Media captionNatasha Sayee reports on the conditions across Northern Ireland as farmers, motorists and engineers struggle with deep snow

"Road conditions are just incredibly bad. There's places where the snow at the side of the road is higher than the vehicles.

"It's coming late in a very, very tough winter - it's just putting the tin hat on us for many of us."

The first minister, Peter Robinson, said his party had asked for the Territorial Army to help clear roads.

Mr Robinson was speaking on a visit to Dromara, County Down, one of the worst affected areas, where sheep farmers have been badly hit.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill asked the secretary of state for urgent access to helicopter support.

Speaking after visiting farms in the Glenarm area of County Antrim, she said: "My department is currently sourcing livestock feed for those most affected.

"A main priority is to ensure roads are cleared to help farmers in dealing with the effects of the severe weather, and I have been speaking with Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy today on how our department's can work closer on this issue.

"I have instructed rivers agency staff to provide support to the roads service to assist in clearing minor roads in affected areas which will assist in getting much needed access to these areas.

"I have also instructed the chief executive of the forest service to deploy their tracked vehicles to help support this work."

Abandoned cars have also been causing disruption on some roads.

NIE said it worked to restore power to more than 137,000 customers over the weekend. Thousands lost their supply due to strong winds and heavy snow.

On Monday evening, about 50 customers were still without power in the Kilcoo and Leitrim and Ballyvoy area of Ballycastle.

NIE spokeswoman Julia Carson said the weather conditions on Friday were "exceptional".

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Media captionBBC Newsline's Mervyn Jess finds extreme conditions on part of the Hannahstown Road outside Belfast and plays 'spot the car'

NIE said any customers still without power should contact them.

NIE's customer help line number is 08457 643643.

About 100 people still had problems with their water supplies at 20:00 GMT on Monday.

Belfast Trust said some operations which were scheduled for Monday had been cancelled as a result of the bad weather.

Most planned surgery went ahead.

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