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Lower Ormeau flooding liability issue must be dealt with immediately

12 December, 2005

South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has written to the Department for Regional Development to urge them to ensure that the issue of liability is dealt with immediately in relation to the recent flooding of homes on the Lower Ormeau Road saying, "This is a vitally important question given that the issue of compensation for residents cannot be resolved until this issue is dealt with. It is unacceptable that, two weeks before Christmas, residents are facing considerable facing hardship".

Cllr. Alex Maskey MLA said,

"Clearly there are serious questions which need to be addressed in respect of the failure of the water and sewerage system. This is especially so since substantial work has been carried out to upgrade the system. Further to this of course is the fact that the area has been flooded at least three times in recent years and worse on each executive occasion.

"I have written to the DRD in order to seek answers to a number of questions.

"Given that the multi-agency response is now underway there is one issue which must be dealt with immediately.

"The Water Service has promised to provide a report into what caused the flooding in the first instance and therein is the question of liability. The Water Service have so far not accepted responsibility and consequently the question of compensation has not yet been resolved leading to considerable hardship for many of those affected by the flood damage. While the DHSS has made a number of grants or loans available from the social fund this is no substitute for liability being established and compensation made available.

"There is great and justifiable anger within the local community that liability has not yet been accepted by Water Service and many families are struggling to deal with the adverse consequences. This is especially frustrating and hurtful so close to Christmas. "The DRD must ensure the question of liability is dealt with immediately while the following issues listed below are being dealt with in the time ahead:

1. Review of how the water/sewerage system failed;

2. Review of Water Service management response;

3. What remedial action is required e.g.

a. emergency re-housing/temporary accommodation

b. decontamination of homes and public realm

c. what repairs to homes have been required

d. what steps were taken to make financial assistance available to families who lost property, were displaced from their homes and /or were out-of-pocket for essential services, food, clothes or vehicles

e. what lessons have been learned from this experience? This is crucial since the Water Service were unable to cope with emergency and this had to be co-ordinated by Belfast City Council. This is despite the fact that the Lower Ormeau area is on the department‚s flood risk register.

4. What measures are required to prevent further flooding in this area?

He concluded,

"The short term priority must be to ensure that the issue of liability is dealt with immediately. The DRD has a responsibility in this and the issue of compensation cannot be dealt with until this issue is resolved. In the long term the DRD must ensure that this never happens again. Clearly, the lesson of the past have not been learned and this is unacceptable." ENDS

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