Storm Frank: Agencies at the ready to respond to flooding - O’Neill

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Emergency flood responders are on high alert in response to the Met Office amber weather warning, Minister Michelle O’Neill has advised.

The combination of high winds and heavy rain is expected to bring medium levels of disruption from 9pm tonight to 7am tomorrow morning. The Minister said her Rivers Agency staff were ready to respond to requests for assistance, with many coming off their Christmas holidays to help.

Minister O’Neill said: “Rivers Agency staff are working around the clock with other emergency responders to ensure that government provides as good a service as possible for those that need help. Our engineers and technical staff are on the ground checking river levels, clearing drainage grilles and checking sandbag stores.

“With an amber weather warning for heavy rain flooding is likely, especially as it is falling on already saturated ground and rivers levels are high. We are doing all we can to mitigate the risk of flooding and would also urge those who think they are at any flooding risk to take every precaution to protect their own homes or businesses.

“Farmers will have housed the majority of their cattle but we would advise them to move any sheep that are still grazing on flood risk land to move them to higher ground,” Minister O’Neill continued.

“Government departments, local councils and drainage authorities are all working closely with many staff put on standby for the next 24 hours. We will continue to monitor river levels overnight as well as ensuring culvert inlet grilles are clear of all debris. There is a risk that with strong winds forecast for overnight, wind-blown debris can block rivers and grilles.

“We would ask the public to report any flooding incidents to the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A member of staff will then contact the appropriate agency on your behalf,” the Minister added.

Transport NI has warned drivers not to enter flood water that is moving or more than four inches deep as fast moving water could mean you and your car are swept away. Remain safe and if unsure seek an alternative route. Up-to-date traffic information is available on: www.trafficwatchni.com

A spokesperson for TransportNI said: “Transport NI is advising drivers to take care on the roads, particularly along the coastal routes as severe weather conditions are expected.

“Motorists should not make unnecessary journeys along the A2 coastal route from Newry to Kilkeel this evening, as the combination of a high tide and the forecast high winds could lead to significant hazards. Engineers from TransportNI are will be monitoring the situation closely and may close this route for a period, if conditions require such action.”

The Fire & Rescue Service also advised pedestrians not to walk through flooded areas.

A spokesman said: ”Even shallow water moving fast can sweep you off your feet and there may be hidden dangers such as open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels which can result in serious injury or in the worst cases death. We would advise people to be aware of weather reports on TV, radio, social media or online. Do not travel in heavy rain storms unless absolutely necessary. If you do become stranded in flood water and you feel there is a risk to life dial 999 for emergency assistance.”

Any reports of flooding should be directed to Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100.