Homes and businesses without power in North

Cars stuck in the snow in Newtownabbey. Picture: Justin Kernoghan

More than 44,000 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland have been left without power after the region was battered by snow, sleet and storm force winds.

The damage to the network was concentrated in south and eastern areas, and also parts of the north coast, Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) said.

George Best Belfast City Airport reopened its runway after being earlier forced to close due to the weather, while flights at Belfast International Airport were also disrupted.

More than 70 schools in the region were forced to shut for the day while commuters faced hazardous conditions on the roads.

The Roads Service said more than 300 staff in 130 gritters were on standby to salt main roads last night.

“Most routes have been salted three times overnight with snow ploughing necessary on many routes,” a spokesman said.

Snow drifts of up to 15.7in have been reported.

NIE said hundreds of additional engineers had been deployed to deal with the effects of the 55km/h winds and snow.

A spokeswoman for NIE said power lines had been hit by flying debris and affected by lying snow, and they would repair all faults as quickly as possible.

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