A hoax bomb alert at Finaghy that caused widespread disruption brought out the community spirit in the area, a youth worker has said.
A nearby Presbyterian church, Lowe Memorial, acted as a temporary refuge for those left out of their homes during the lengthy alert.
James Currie, a 24-year-old youth leader living nearby, said the Red Cross turned up on Thursday to offer clean clothes to anyone in need.
Around 15 people had come to the premises but opted to go elsewhere, with no-one spending the night in the church hall.
“If there is a silver lining,” he said, “it’s nice to be able to see the community helping each other”, noting that neighbours had been calling on one another to check on their welfare.
A swathe of households were yesterday left contending with a second day of disruption as streets in the area remained cordoned off.
Police first announced they were attending an alert at about 3.30pm on Thursday after a suspicious object was reported on the nearby rail line.
The Army were called in and Finaghy Road North and surrounding streets were shut, along with the rail line itself.
Translink said yesterday that the line was reopening at 4.40pm, and by around 6pm the police issued an official statement declaring it over.
The statement read: “A number of suspicious items were recovered from the scene and have been taken away for further forensic examination.
“Army Technical Officers were tasked to the scene and have declared the items as elaborate hoaxes.”
The operation is understood to have concentrated on the archway beside Finaghy station.
Chief Inspector Ken Pennington said: “I’d like to thank the community in Finaghy, commuters and our partner agencies for their patience and support during this operation.
“A number of homes were evacuated during the course of this security alert. Throughout this incident the safety of the public and police officers had been at the forefront of our planning and actions.”
Marie McCann, in her 70s, was one of those whose house lay behind the cordon.
She had stayed overnight with son Gerard, and The News Letter encountered them as he was trying to get through the cordon to retrieve blood pressure medicine from the house.
The area, which lies close to Andersonstown, had seen bomb alerts in the past, said Mrs McCann, “but they never last as long as this”.
Teacher Joseph Healy, 46, saw the cordons going up on Thursday around the time schools were finishing.
He estimated up to 100 pupils were gathering behind the lines, unable to take the route home, and said local takeaways ended up handing out free food to them.
He had strong words for those responsible: “They’re totally oblivious to the disruption, They couldn’t care less. They should be ashamed of themselves - but they don’t have shame.”
Retired community worker Harry McCarthy, 71, said many of the area’s residents were quite elderly. “It’s bad enough being disrupted for half a day, or a day,” he said. “Whenever it spans two days it’s a very, very serious problem.”
He felt there had been a degree of confusion about what residents were meant to do during the alert.
Police said: “We appreciate the substantial inconvenience which has been caused by this security alert and are endeavouring to accommodate the needs of, and requests made by, residents as much as possible.
“Our advice to residents we believe to be at risk has been to leave their homes. In cases where this advice has been declined or it has not been possible to leave, the police advice has been to stay in a part of the property furthest away from the security alert.”
Access through the cordon was at officers’ discretion, it added.