Residents warned to pack their bags

Banbury Cake: The PSNI's Stephen Martin has urged residents in Sydenham, east Belfast, to be prepared for floods. The PSNI's Stephen Martin has urged residents in Sydenham, east Belfast, to be prepared for floods.

Police have advised residents in part of East Belfast to pack their bags for possible evacuation amid fears of a tidal surge.

High water and heavy rain is predicted for midday tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday across Northern Ireland and officers asked members of the public to avoid coastal paths and to drive with extreme caution.

High risk areas include the densely-packed residential streets of Sydenham and Victoria Park in the east of the capital and around the docks.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "We are particularly concerned around a number of areas, those areas are Victoria Park in Belfast, the Sydenham area of Belfast and around the docks area of Belfast.

"We are working as much as we can to try and prepare ourselves for potential flooding in those areas so during the course of today we have distributed many thousands of sand bags."

Police are coordinating a major planning operation involving many public services.

The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Rivers Agency, Belfast HealthTrust, Road Service, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Electricity, British Telecom and Translink are cooperating.

Mr Martin said: "The combination of heavy rain, strong winds and high tides beginning tomorrow and lasting throughout the weekend has created the potential for flooding in a number of coastal areas across Northern Ireland."

He added: "We would ask residents in Sydenham to consider making preparations for potential flooding in the area. We will be working to provide assistance for those who may be affected.

"In general, over the weekend we would ask all members of the public to stay away from coastal paths and walkways and to drive with extreme caution."

Other areas that could be affected to a lesser extent than Belfast include Larne, Newry, Newtownards and Clough in counties Antrim and Down.

Sandbags have been deployed to protect some key facilities and bolster existing flood defences in Sydenham.

Mr Martin added: "We would ask residents to not remove these sandbags for personal use as this will place the homes in the area under an increased risk of flooding.

"At present we are not recommending people to evacuate their homes or properties but we are keeping the situation under constant review.

"I would ask them, where possible, to think about moving valuables upstairs and packing a case so that, if we make a recommendation to evacuate, they are in a position to do so.

"Where possible, we would ask those people who are affected by flooding to go to friends and family outside the flood risk area."

The health authorities will be identifying vulnerable members of the community and providing assistance.

The co-ordination group is looking at potential sites to provide relief, if needed.

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