Householders avoid flooding by a whisker as tidal surge hits Ulster

editorial image

Neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland narrowly escaped a potentially catastrophic deluge of floodwater yesterday – but the risk has not yet gone away.

The police have advised vigilance over the coming days after yesterday’s noon-time tidal surge, which sparked a mass alert across the Province.

Yesterday, police, fire engines and rescue teams were visible on the streets all morning as coastal and low-lying areas steeled themselves for floods – although in the end the damage was not as widespread as some may have feared.

In Coleraine, the River Bann broke its banks, while coastal stretches up and down the Province took a beating from ferocious waves.

The Esplanade at Holywood saw flooding and, close to the train station, a breach of the sea wall swamped a tunnel connecting the main road to the lough shore.

Residents of Newry’s Old Warrenpoint Road had to contend with water up to their ankles, and in Carnlough and Cushendall the sea hurled chunks of stone onto coastal paths – apparently even bending railings out of shape and ripping bins from their foundations at the latter location.

Meanwhile, Coleraine Borough Council said the recent bad weather and high tides, including those of yesterday, have left Portrush’s East Strand promenade damaged.

Repair work will start from January 6 to March 17, with parts of the promenade closed.

The conditions caused disruption to NIR’s Larne Line services.

Streets in the Sailortown area of Belfast appeared to escape any major damage (see p5).

But arguably the riskiest location of all was in densely-populated east Belfast, where the banks of the Connswater River were literally inches from bursting as a surge in Belfast Lough forced water inland.

The swelling river posed a threat to the pumping station in Sydenham, plus hundreds of surrounding low -lying houses.

Crowds gathered near the Victoria Park entrance from around 11.30am, watching from the grassy bank which runs alongside the Connswater River as it swelled and swelled.

A railway bridge spanning the river gradually came to resemble a kind of pontoon, with water eventually rising so high that it appeared as if the train line was just floating on top.

By about 12.10pm, the water was perhaps only six inches from breaching the riverbank, which stands several feet higher than surrounding streets.

But the moment passed, the river stayed put, and the householders gradually drifted back to their homes.

One of those watching the scene unfold was east Belfast UUP MLA Michael Copeland.

He said: “They’ve been stoic, and have exhibited the best survival instincts of people in Belfast, in the sense that they’ve made whatever preparations they can.”

DUP First Minister Peter Robinson visited Sydenham too, where some heckled him as he toured the area.