Motorists whose vehicles were potentially damaged in a recent flooding incident at Belfast International Airport have been urged to make sure they are safe to drive.
The airport said that 35 vehicles out of 6,554 on site were affected by flooding during a period of torrential rain on July 28.
Graham Keddie, managing director at Belfast International Airport, issued a statement promising that “no one will be out one penny because of what took place”.
Airport customer Nick Mitford told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show that his car is likely to be “a write-off”.
“I don’t blame the airport for there being a flood. It was quite clearly an unprecedented amount of rain and there was flooding throughout Northern Ireland,” he said.
“It’s the way the airport subsequently decided to treat me as a customer. My car was there for 13 days after the flooding incident, and they had my details. Now I’m not asking them to try and assess my car or work out whether or not my car has been flooded or not, but I don’t think it’s beyond the duty of care they owe to me to just inform me that there had been an incident and that I might want to make arrangements not to potentially drive an unsafe car home with my family in it.”
Another airport customer, ‘Emma’, told the show that she returned from holiday with her children to find that her car, which had been parked in an overflow “field”, had been flooded.
“I arrived home at three o’clock in the morning, got into the car, wondered what the smell was and then realised that there was about a foot of water in it. The car’s been written off,” she said.
“I made the choice not to drive my vehicle home because I was concerned because there was a lot of water in it, so we got a taxi. But there are other unknowing people who have driven their vehicles home.”
With some customers claiming they weren’t informed about the flooding incident, concerns have been raised that some motorists could be unwittingly driving vehicles that are not safe.
Ian Crowder, the AA’s public relations manager, warned that flood damage could compromise a vehicle’s safety systems and urged anyone who thinks their vehicle may have been affected to get it checked out by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.
“Anyone who thinks their car may have potentially been submerged in this flooding incident should get it checked out, ideally by a main dealer, and follow their advice and then contact their insurance company,” he advised.
Describing the incident as “an issue of public concern”, he said vehicles that have sustained water damage may well start and drive ok, but can have “a host of unseen problems”, some of which are “potentially dangerous”.
“The water can affect the electronics of the car, the exhaust and all sorts of other aspects of the vehicle,” he added.
Mr Crowder said that cars that have been flooded are usually written off by insurance companies as they can “store up problems” and even be dangerous as on-board electronics that control safety systems could start to fail.
Mr Keddie said the airport had been the subject of “a frenzied onslaught by certain sections of the local media over what happened during torrential rains on the 28th July”.
The Met Office said 88.2 mm of rain fell on Saturday afternoon “more than the average rainfall for the entire month of July”.
He added: “Passengers affected were provided transport home at no cost where required.”
A firm of solicitors is acting on the airport’s behalf to settle all costs, including the cost of vehicles that have been written off and associated costs such as car hire and insurance excess. All claims will be dealt with as quickly as possible.
“We could have avoided liability under Act of God clauses, but we didn’t. Instead, we acknowledged the extent of the damage that was done and moved to deliver redress to our customers.”