HELICOPTER IN FOOD DROPS FOR SOUTH DOWN

An RAF Chinook helicopter dropping in food supplies to South Down on Wednesday

An RAF Chinook helicopter dropping in food supplies to South Down on Wednesday

AN RAF Chinook helicopter will drop in emergency supplies to the South Down area on Wednesday.

Parts of Dromara have been left completely isolated deep snow drifts and wintry weather conditions continue to cause misery in remote parts of Northern Ireland.

The Chinook made deliveries to the Glens of Antrim on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Ch-47 twin-engined Chinook will take from RAF Aldergrove and head to Dromara and airlift in supplies to desperate farmers.

Extra support will also be provided by the Irish Air Corps as farmers try to find and rescue their stranded livestock, amid fears that thousands of sheep and cattle have died.

They say they are in desperate need of supplies.

Sean Scullion, who owns a farm near Glenarm, said mounds of snow are blocking his farm house – while 140 dairy cows wait to be fed.

“We need help really bad,”

“There is countless other farmers like me can’t even gain access into their own yards to access feed to take out to other animals that are out there in fields and outlying areas.”

On Tuesday, Belfast Daily revealed that one farmer in Dromara lost more than half his livestock during the freak blizzard conditions.

A relative told Belfast Daily: “After hearing the forecast, he went out on Thursday night with his son and round up about 200 or so sheep and lambs and brought them indoors.

“But there was another 300 still out there but he just couldn’t physcically bring them in as the weather was turning so bad.

“He got up the next day and the snow in the fields was higher than the gates and hedges.

A mother and her lamb survive the heavy snow in the Sperrin Mountains

A mother and her lamb survive the heavy snow in the Sperrin Mountains

“He thinks he has lost the lot, especially the young lambs. It is devastating for him because this is his livelihood.”

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said on Tuesday that she would press for a hardship payment for farmers at an Executive meeting.

“It is only fair and right to see whether there is a hardship or compensation payment that can be made. After all, we are depending on these people to produce our food.

“It is a severe situation. People have said that this is worse than 1963. Some of the scenes are harrowing – to see farmers bring in sheep that have died in the snow. People are angry and concerned.”

The minister paid tribute to the sense of community and the way people worked together in the crisis.

“We have an animal welfare issue,” she added.

“Farmers need a food drop. We have a surveillance helicopter so that we can see where the livestock are and then we have an MoD helicopter which is prepared to make a food drop.”

The MoD helicopter arrived in NI on Tuesday after being drafted in by Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill.

She said: “It’s going to be in the area over the next couple of days delivering the feed to targeted areas. Air surveillance of affected areas together with information supplied by local farmers is being used to identify and prioritise areas of need.”

Extra livestock feed and fodder has been sourced through the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, and is being delivered to farms on vehicles known as Snowcats.

Up to 140,000 homes and businesses across NI were affected by power cuts and damage to the grid, but electricity has now been restored to all customers.

Police and the Red Cross have been delivering feed and fodder packages to areas where roads are impassable to cars.

The emergency services and mountain rescue have also been involved in attempts to get the region back on its feet.

 

 

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