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Belfast park closed after 16 birds found dead due to avian flu outbreak

A spokesman said that 16 dead birds had been removed from the park in recent days.
Waterworks Park

Waterworks Park

Paula Mackin

Disturbing images of swans in distress have been circulated on social media as avian flu takes hold in Northern Ireland.

A park in north Belfast has been closed due to an outbreak of the killer virus, the city council has announced today.

A number of dead birds have been taken away by workers who looked on helplessly, unable to help or save the animals.

Belfast City Council said the Waterworks Park "has been temporarily closed until further notice".

A spokesman said that 16 dead birds had been removed from the park in recent days.

"We have engaged an independent expert to review our approach and management plan to deal with this ongoing issue," he added.

"We are also arranging for an on-call vet to be available to assess sick and dying birds and, if required, humanely euthanise these birds."

The spokesman said that park wardens were removing any dead birds from the site and that the main species affected at the Waterworks were swans.

"As the outbreak continues to escalate across Northern Ireland, as a precautionary approach the Waterworks Park will close until further notice," he said.

"We're continuing to work alongside and seek advice from the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs and the Public Health Agency in response to this issue.

"We would ask the public not to visit Waterworks Park at this time as we continue to manage the ongoing situation.".

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots warned that the threat from avian flu in Northern Ireland "will be more significant in the months ahead".

Last week, 27,000 ducks were culled after an outbreak in County Tyrone.

Suspected cases were also found in a "backyard flock" in Broughshane in County Antrim.

In a statement on Wednesday, a DAERA spokesman said the department was aware of reports of dead and sick wild birds in the Belfast area.

"To date in this current outbreak, Avian Influenza H5N1 has been confirmed in six wild birds in Northern Ireland (NI).

"Unfortunately, native wild birds that come into contact with infected migratory birds, are at a high risk of catching the disease.

"The Public Health Agency has issued advice that the public should not touch dead or sick birds."

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