Political meetings as makeshift barriers spring up at port



Although the Lagan Weir can help to curb the worst effects of tidal surges, those on the wrong side of it are still vulnerable.

Yesterday homes and businesses in the Sailortown district, just on the other side of the flood defence barrage, were among those crossing their fingers and hoping for the best as the peak surge hit at noon.

The entrance to Belfast Port, by Buffer McMahon’s pub, was closed off temporarily as a miniature wall of sandbags was laid across the road.

A number of those in roads such as Short Street, right next to the port, had built up makeshift defences too, fearing the worst.

But mum-of-two Charlene Fryers, 45, said it all gave them a chance to show the spirit of their tight-knit area, adding that they had been checking on neighbours to make sure they were all right.

“That’s one thing about all our community here – they all pull together,” she said.

But she added: “We’ve got all weekend of it, right through to Monday, so I’ve just got to prepare for the worst.

“I’m packing a bag, just all your basic stuff like medicine for the kids. It’s more scary than anything because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. We went down to the Lagan and it was splashing all over, and the wind would cut you.”

She added: “Just ask everybody to say a wee prayer for us!”

Muldoon’s Bar, opposite the iconic Sinclair Seamen’s Presbyterian Church, had also erected a barrier of sandbags at its door.

Nonetheless it was fairly busy – and, in an ironic twist, the weather conditions may actually have helped to boost its business.

A number of those enjoying lunch or a pint at around 1pm said they had been working on an oil rig in the shipyard, but were advised to leave because of concerns over flooding and the high winds.

One of them, George Millar, said: “Your man, the director, decided to put all non-essential people home,” estimating that a “couple of hundred” workers were probably sent away.

Julie McGlinchey, 46, working behind the bar, said they moved all their kegs out of the basement, because two years ago she estimated they lost hundreds of pounds of booze when their cellar flooded.

“We just take precautions,” she said, although thankfully she added they escaped a repeat of that yesterday.

By 1pm, the tension had eased as the worst of the sea surge passed without incident in the area.

By lunchtime a large squad of police helped to haul away the makeshift barrier of sandbags blocking the way into the port, allowing a queue of heavy lorries to enter once more.

Leaders met over flood fears

Yesterday morning ministers were briefed about the flood risks by the head of the civil service at an emergency meeting.

They issued a joint statement in the wake of it, thanking all those assisting with flood defences but also expressing concern about the dangers from rivers and surface water given the level of rainfall in recent weeks.

In a joint statement they said: “Coastal flooding is an extremely rare weather event and the Executive has been fully briefed on the potential risk of coastal flooding and the impact it could have on residents and services in parts of Belfast and potentially other towns along the east coast.”


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