Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill and Regional Development Michelle McIlveen today co-hosted a high-level meeting to discuss the ongoing response to the recent significant flooding.
The meeting, held at CAFRE's Loughry Campus in Cookstown, was also attended by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
Representatives from Rivers Agency, Transport NI, NIW and the local councils joined the Ministers to discuss and review the multi-agency response to help communities impacted by flooding in the last few weeks. The Ministers explored measures to enhance flood protection in the future and also considered strengthening the multi-agency approach.
Minister O'Neill said: "For the vast majority of people, the multi-agency response, involving Rivers Agency, Transport NI, NIW and the councils worked well. However, there remained some areas which were hit hard, where communities were isolated and homes and businesses damaged. While the weather will always be volatile, we are determined to do all in our power to ensure that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.
"Today, we looked at where more could be done to reduce the risks of flooding in the future. As Rivers Minister, I intend to seek resources to use to improve our flood protections where necessary. Also, next week I will announce details of a new grant scheme to help people protect their homes from flooding.
“However, I believe the solutions are to be found through a co-ordinated approach both at Ministerial level and on the ground at agency level. I am sure this view was shared by everyone around the table."
Minister McIlveen said: "This was a positive and useful meeting which has reinforced the fact that agencies, including my own TransportNI, have been working round the clock and in severe weather conditions to try and help the public who have been affected by flooding.
“My key priority is to identify any immediate remedial works that need to be carried out on roads which have been flooded to ensure they are opened as quickly as possible. As well as carrying out emergency repairs, I will be seeking to identify longer-term measures to address any issues with the roads infrastructure.”
Minister Durkan said: “Over recent years we have seen much heartache for homeowners dealing with the aftermath of flooded homes. Flooding can no longer be termed as a one off or once in a hundred years. It is happening on a regular basis. It is important that government ministers and local councils work in a joined up way to tackle the problem and help those most severely affected to get back to normal. Working with and through councils, I have already ensured that practical and financial help is delivered to those most in need as early as possible. We have a £1000 grant available to assist homeowners in ensuring their homes are habitable as quickly as possible.
“Today’s meeting though provided the platform to share ideas and plan for the longer term. I welcome the fact that we agreed a positive course of action which will help in dealing with flooding.
“I would also urge people to keep an eye out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours and check they are safe in their homes when there is severe weather."
The Ministers heard updates from all the agencies on the efforts being made by agencies and councils to tackle the impact of the flooding.
They were told that water levels in Lough Neagh are controlled by means of flood gates at Toome, at the head of the Lower Bann river. All five gates at Toome have been fully opened to vent flows from 10th November 2015. It will take a period of time for Lough Neagh levels to fall when weather conditions improve.
The public is asked to report any flooding incidents to the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A member of staff will then contact the appropriate agency on your behalf.
Notes to editors
1. Water levels for Lough Erne and Lough Neagh are published every working day and can be viewed at https://www.dardni.gov.uk/topics/rivers-and-flooding/rivers-and-lough-levels
2. Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is currently passing maximum flows from the Erne system at Cliff hydro electric station.
3. Water levels in Lough Neagh are controlled by means of flood gates at Toome, at the head of the Lower Bann river. All five gates at Toome have been fully opened to vent flows from 10th November 2015.
4. It will take a period of time for Lough Neagh levels to fall when weather conditions improve.
5. Residents and business owners who think they are at risk of flooding can view the Rivers Agency flood maps to access information, which will help them understand the possible impact. The flood maps can be viewed at: https://www.dardni.gov.uk/topics/rivers-and-flooding
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