A major clear-up operation is under way in the north-west of Ireland and Northern Ireland after heavy rain left a trail of destruction.

Bridges collapsed, roads gave way and cars were washed away in overflowing rivers during a night when 63% of August’s average rainfall fell within nine hours.

More than 100 people had to be rescued from vehicles caught in flash floods. Firefighters saved 93, with the Coastguard helping dozens of others.

Police, ambulance crews and search and rescue teams were also involved in the response. Temporary accommodation centres have been opened to house those whose homes were flooded. Counties Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone were worst hit.

There were some dramatic images of devastation on Wednesday as the rescue operation turned to clean-up and repairs. Downpours swept in from the Atlantic Ocean, hitting Co Donegal on Tuesday afternoon before moving across Northern Ireland.

Firefighters responded to 85 separate flooding incidents on Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday. Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Firefighters rescued 93 people who were trapped by flood water either from their cars or from properties.

An engineer surveys damage to the road next to the river Faughan in Drumahoe, Londonderry
An engineer surveys damage to the road next to the river Faughan in Drumahoe, Londonderry (Niall Carson/PA)

“Our regional control centre (RCC) received 402 emergency 999 calls between 7pm last night and 4am this morning. At its peak time, between 9pm and 11pm, RCC handled an emergency call every 45 seconds.Firefighters worked in extremely challenging circumstances to reach people.

“A number of roads were impassable due to flooding and crews had to take alternative routes to attend some incidents. We worked closely with colleagues from the Irish Coastguard Agency, PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland), ambulance service, Foyle Search and Rescue and local councils to respond to incidents to assist members of the public.

“Our specialist teams, including the water rescue teams and specialist rescue team from Belfast, were deployed and worked alongside local operational crews. This was a very busy and challenging night for fire crews and our regional control centre personnel. I commend them for their professionalism in responding to such challenging circumstances as efficiently as they did throughout the night.”

People look at trees in the river Faughan in Drumahoe, Londonderry, after heavy rain left a trail of destruction
People look at trees in the river Faughan in Drumahoe, Londonderry, after heavy rain left a trail of destruction (Niall Carson/PA)

Meanwhile, Northern England has also experienced heavy downpours and flash flooding, leaving commuters facing road closures and delays.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it received 23 flood-related calls between 9am and 11am on Wednesday, of which seven were attended by crews. The callouts, mainly around Leeds, included three people stuck in vehicles, and one lightning strike damaging a property in Wetherby.

First Bus services in York suffered “severe congestion” after one central A-road was closed due to flooding in the Fishergate area, causing diversions and compounding delays due to extra traffic associated with events at York Racecourse.