Storm Francis: Nichola Mallon 'committed to Newcastle flood scheme'

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A woman cleaning her house following the floodingImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
A clean-up operation is currently under way in Newcastle

The infrastructure minister says she is committed to implementing a flood alleviation scheme in Newcastle, County Down.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said 37 people were rescued across NI on Tuesday from flooding caused by Storm Francis.

In Newcastle, elderly residents were evacuated from their homes after the Shimna river overflowed its banks.

Flooding has been a recurring problem in that area.

Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme she was "confident" any issues around the scheme can be resolved swiftly.

Ms Mallon visited residents in Newcastle on Tuesday and said she understood "the very understandable upset".

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The fire service rescued 37 people from floodwaters on Tuesday

"We will deliver on this long-awaited flood alleviation scheme," she said.

"Work is due to commence on that in the summer next year.

"I've asked my officials to do everything they can to escalate that because we have to make sure that residents do not go through this horrendous ordeal again."

The minister said she could not give a definitive completion date but said she had instructed her officials to begin work as soon as possible.

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In 2008, there was significant flooding in the area.

Resident Sheila McGinn said it was "so terribly disappointing that nothing has been done for 12 years to alleviate the flood problem here in Newcastle".

"It's a re-enactment of a drama. I am just numb with the shock that it has happened again," she said.

"You have to empathise with water swirling around your knees, up to your waist, and coming into your house and covering your feet with water.

"Every time it rains, the level of the river rises, we are so concerned that our properties will be flooded again.

"I feel so sorry for some of my neighbours, young and old. Their furniture has been floating around in the water and some of the young people find it so difficult to get insurance for their homes because they live in an area of flooding."

Image source, PAcemaker

Another resident John McBurney said the flooding was 10 to 15% worse than in 2008.

"You now have elderly people who, every time it rains, think it's going to happen again which is perfectly understandable," said Mr McBurney.

"It needs to be sorted out. A lot of elderly people live in the area and in the summer we are very glad to see our population double, sometimes triple.

"But I can't see any visible evidence of anything being done [about the flooding] since 2008, apart from talk about it."

Media caption,

Emergency services rescue residents from flooded homes

Other parts of Northern Ireland were also badly affected by Storm Francis.

In Rostrevor, County Down, the Fairy Glen river caused flooding while in Draperstown, County Londonderry, nine people were rescued from inside a house, along with four outside who were trying to help.

The fire service said that between midnight and 20:00 on Tuesday, it responded to 28 flooding incidents across Northern Ireland, including in the Newcastle, Maghera, Draperstown and Cookstown areas.

Storm Francis was named by the UK Met Office on Monday - it is the seventh named storm of the season and the second storm in a week to affect the UK and Ireland.