Valley to be 'humanitarian centre' in emergencies

NEWTOWNABBEY Council has confirmed that the borough's biggest leisure complex will be used as "a humanitarian centre" to provide assistance to local residents in the event of a major emergency.

Last week, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said his department was liaising with councils to ensure measures are in place to provide emergency help and shelter for those affected by the severe winter weather.

"I am concerned at the number of properties that are currently without heat, water or electricity. Many people, including senior citizens and families with small children are without any heat or running water. They can't live in those circumstances for days while they wait on a thaw.

"I have therefore requested that councils be prepared to open humanitarian centres, if required, to cater for the needs of these people over the festive period and beyond," he commented.

"This morning my department spoke with the Local Government Emergency Management Group (LGEMG) and other emergency responders. We advised the councils that emergency procedures should be activated. The councils have now done so," the Minister added.

A spokesperson for Newtownabbey Council confirmed that an internal meeting of senior staff took place on Thursday (December 23) to discuss the measures which would be put in place should such an emergency situation arise.

She confirmed that the Valley Leisure Centre would be used as a 'humanitarian centre' if required, and that staff are on stand-by to assist with any emergency aid operation.

"These procedures allow council properties to be opened as emergency reception facilities at the request of the local lead agency. Councils and their staff are on stand-by to assist lead agencies in the provision of emergency help.

"LGEMG has requested that all councils have staff on stand-by over the Christmas/New Year period to provide assistance to those who may need it," a DOE spokesperson confirmed.

It is understood that a number of people who'd been without water in their homes for several days used the leisure centre facilities on Tuesday (December 28) to take showers.

Read the full story in this week's Times...