Retailers were left “devastated” at the weekend due to flooding brought about by Storm Desmond.
The wave of wet and windy weather whisked its way across the Province from Friday evening, with the west of Northern Ireland seemingly affected the worst.
There were widespread reports of flooding and road closures, with a long string of notifications issued to the News Letter about incidents in Fermanagh and Tyrone.
In Donegal, the bridge after the rivers Finn and Foyle meet in Lifford was closed due to high water levels.
An elderly man had to be rescued from his home in Clady, Co Tyrone, on Saturday night with an emergency team using a digger to get to the property after the Finn burst its banks over a huge area.
There was also significant damage in Larne.
In Dungannon, the Linen Green shopping complex saw businesses hit by a deluge of water, and businesswoman Anita Ross told the News Letter that she had lost more than £100,000-worth of stock.
Miss Ross, from women’s clothing retailer Boudoir, said the basement of the building had been left under twoo feet of water, wrecking the clothes which they had bought for the Christmas rush.
Although she expected to recoup the cost of the items on insurance, she said: “But obviously we can’t get that stock again between now and Christmas. We’ll have lost earnings for all of that.”
She estimated that over 30 firms had been hit in the centre. Among the sights which greeted her on Sunday morning was a BMW parked nearby, engulfed in flood water up to its windows.
Asked her reaction to discovering the flooding when she opened up on Sunday, she said: “Absolutely devastated. Our customers have been fantastic. Other retailers in the Linen Green have been really good – we’ve rallied together. But it’s left everyone devastated.”
Environment minister Mark H Durkan said on Sunday night that he was activating an emergency £1,000 payment scheme for flood-hit householders.
In a statement he said: “Individual householders will be eligible for a £1,000 payment as an offer of practical assistance to those who have suffered severe inconvenience, to ensure homes are made habitable as quickly as possible.
“I realise that it’s not just homes but businesses and community buildings which can be damaged from severe flooding.
“That’s why I’m working to try to have the scheme extended so these premises can also apply for emergency financial assistance. It is not a compensation payment.
“If you feel that you may be entitled to the payment, contact your local council as soon as possible and they will arrange for an urgent inspection of your property.
“If the council decides that your claim is eligible, you will receive your payment within a matter of days.
“In addition, your council can also offer a range of practical help and guidance, including collection, retention and disposal of damaged household contents, assistance with arrangements to clean up your home and garden, and also by providing de-humidifiers to dry out affected homes.
“My Department will reimburse councils for the £1,000 payments to individual householders and for the direct and indirect costs of providing practical assistance and advice.”
He concluded: “Working with and through councils, my aim is to ensure that practical and financial help is delivered to those most in need as early as possible. I would also urge people to keep an eye out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours.”