Police warning over sandbag removal

Police warning over sandbag removal

Police have warned people of the dangers of removing sandbags from key locations around Belfast ahead of possible flooding.

The warning comes as parts of Belfast and coastal regions brace themselves for further flooding during the weekend and into Monday when a tidal surge may be combined with less favourable winds and heavy rain.Sandbags are being distributed to residents and placed at key flood defence locations.On Friday water levels rose to unprecedented levels, however, most areas escaped expected flooding.A large scale operation was put into place to prevent damage to homes.Over 20,000 sandbags were handed out to residents and placed at key locations in anticipation of the rising tide.Police said it was "lucky" Northern Ireland escaped the worst of the flooding which has caused devastation in parts of Britain on Friday.A number of people took to Twitter to say sandbags were "stolen" from properties and some reported cases of youths selling sandbags door-to-door.Inverary Community Centre will be open today from 10am-4pm for residents to collect sandbags. Any queries call 0800 7076965 from 10am-2pm.— Belfast City Council (@belfastcc) January 4, 2014Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin urged people not to remove sandbags from key flood defence locations and from people's homes and said everything will be done to provide people with sandbags.He said: "I would like to make an appeal. Over 20,000 sandbags were distributed and a large number of those were placed as defence measures in and around Sydenham and the Connsbrook River."We have had reports of many of those being removed by people and I understand people's need and desire to protect their own homes and we have moved to put many thousands of sandbags available to residents in that area."But I would appeal to them that it is vital they leave sandbags around the river and around the pumping stations that have been put there to protect their homes, in place."By removing those, the risk to the homes in Sydenham is increased."He continued: "If people who live in any of those residential areas that are affected require sandbags, we will do everything we can to provide those."And just to reassure the people of Sydenham in particular, the Inverary Community Centre Community Centre will be open on Saturday and will be open again on Sunday and sandbags will be available to you at that location."The community spirit that so successfully saw us through this problem, with neighbour helping neighbour, needs to continue.MLA Robin NewtonEast Belfast MLA, Robin Newton added: "The Sydenham area is the area most at risk and householders need to continue to be vigilant."Sandbag barriers constructed by the statutory bodies along the Connswater River must be left in place to prevent flooding."Sandbags will be available from Inverary Community Centre and residents needing assistance can get help at the centre."Conditions can change quickly and residents need to keep informed about potential hazardous weather situations evolving."The statutory bodies deserve our praise for the work they have carried out so far."However, this can only be successful if there is full cooperation from householders and residents," said the DUP representative.Anyone who needs to report flooding can call a flooding incident line on 0300 2000 100 or the police non-emergency line on 0845 600 8000. More information is available here.

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