Two Co Tyrone farmers were among those counting the cost of Tuesday night’s torrential downpours, after tens of thousands of chickens were killed in flash floods.
Chicken processor Moy Park confirmed that around 55,000 “adult birds” were lost during the freak storm, which left a trail of destruction across the north-west of the Province.
Roads were washed away, bridges collapsed, homes and businesses were damaged and sports pitches were decimated by flash flooding, on a night when 63% of the average rainfall for all of August came down in around nine hours.
The City of Derry Airport was closed on Wednesday after the terminal building was flooded.
All flights at the facility, which is owned by Derry and Strabane Council, were cancelled as a major clean-up operation took place.
Two sources close to the council told the News Letter that the facility suffered serious damage, including navigation equipment and electrical equipment within the building.
Co Londonderry was worst affected by the heavy downpours, while parts of counties Tyrone and Donegal were also badly hit by flooding.
The Met Office confirmed that 61mm of rain fell at Lough Fea in Co Tyrone between 8am on Tuesday and 8am on Wednesday. In comparison, just 7mm fell at Helen’s Bay in Co Down over the same period.
NI Electricity said there were 1,700 confirmed lightning strikes overnight on Tuesday.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood raised concern over the lack of preparation to deal with severe weather.
“Families and businesses struggling to cope and big questions for statutory agencies. Where was the preparation?” Mr Eastwood tweeted.
Derry City & Strabane District Council opened several centres to temporarily accommodate members of the public who were forced to flee their homes when the flood waters arrived.
Up to 100 families in the Eglinton area are understood to be affected.
A father-of-one who lives in the village of Drumahoe, just outside Londonderry, described how the community came together to combat the rising water levels.
He added: “Some residents have suffered badly. The downstairs of people’s houses started to fill up. A farmer went and got a tractor and he drove straight through the hedge to clear a path for the water, which helped the levels subside more quickly.”
Firefighters rescued 93 people who were trapped by flood water in their cars or homes.
The NI Fire and Rescue Service said it responded to 85 incidents directly resulting from heavy rainfall.
At one point, the fire service handled an emergency call every 45 seconds.
Alan Walmsley, assistant chief fire & rescue officer, described it as a “very busy and challenging night” for the fire service.
Poultry giant Moy Park said two of its farming partners in Co Tyrone had experienced livestock loss and damage to their farm buildings.
The company, one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers, added it was working closely with the farmers and the relevant bodies to help get the family-run businesses fully operational again.
Meanwhile, the City of Derry Airport told the News Letter on Wednesday evening that efforts were being made to facilitate passengers expecting to travel to or from the airport on Thursday.
A spokesperson said BMI flights between the City of Derry and London Stansted on Thursday have been delayed, and passengers are urged to check the website for details. Ryanair flights are unaffected.
There were intense thunderstorms across the Province overnight on Tuesday, causing power outages for thousands of residents. On Wednesday evening, 600 people were still without power, but it was expected that power would be restored to all homes over the course of the night.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said businesses and residents had been left counting the cost of the floods.
He added: “This was a frightening experience as many had to leave their homes and go to nearby community centres, which were opened to those affected. Cars were abandoned as roads became completely impassable.
“Real devastation was caused by this flooding incident. Essentially, some areas were cut off as some roads are still closed and homes have been destroyed.
“It is essential that those affected receive help and support in the coming days and weeks.”
DUP MLA Gary Middleton added: “As the rebuilding and clean up begins, I want to assure residents and business owners that we will be seeking a good outcome for those worst affected. The council have now activated their emergency plans and hope to provide financial assistance to those who have been badly affected.
“Anyone who is in need should also contact the flood helpline on 0300 2000 100.”