A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter dropped feed to thousands of farm animals stranded in huge snow drifts in Northern Ireland on Wednesday (March 27) as an agriculture crisis triggered by blizzards deepened.
Thousands of animals are feared dead, but the extent of the losses is still unclear as most of the missing livestock are buried below the thick blankets of snow that have enveloped parts of counties Antrim and Down, in Northern Ireland.
UK Department of Agriculture advisors have identified the areas where the animals are most at risk and have drafted resources to aid in the rescue - including the helicopter and softrack vehicles.
James McHenry is one farmer who has been affected, and said he had been contacted by the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday (March 26) night.
"The Department phoned me last night about nine o'clock and the guy in a helicopter said he'd seen approximately about a hundred sheep, but there's 300 plus in that particular area, so that means there's 200 possibly dead, buried or whatever," he said.
The heavy snow damaged farm buildings as well as making the task of rescuing his stranded sheep hazardous.
"It will be quite difficult and it will take some type of overland vehicle," McHenry said.
Elaine McGarel, another local farmer, said that she had feed for her animals but that access to the stock had proven to be difficult.
She said it had been a huge relief to get help from the softrack vehicle.
"It's like manna from heaven. That's the best way to describe it, and I'm sure them sheep feel the exact same," she said.
The timing of the snowfall will be damaging for sheep farmers, coming at the height of the lambing season. The Ulster Farmer's Union predicts the monetary loss could rise to £3 million (4.5 million US dollars approx).
British Broadcaster the BBC reported that there was no end in sight to the wintery conditions in the Glens of Antrim area.
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