Northern Ireland news

Recovery operation underway after storm Ophelia claimed three lives and caused massive disruption

Salthill in Galway as storm Ophelia battered Ireland. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

THE clear up after storm Ophelia is underway across the island of Ireland.

Ophelia claimed three lives in the Republic amd the was worst storm in 60 years to batter the island.

High winds, some more than 96mph in the Republic, brought down power lines, damaged buildings and uprooted hundreds of trees across the island.

Fallen trees continue to cause problems on roads while in Northern Ireland around 4,000 homes and businesses are without electricity. By lunchtime some 200,000 were still without power in the Republic.

Around 80,000 people remain without water and that number is expected to rise.

People in the worst affected areas from Wexford to Skibbereen in Co Cork, have been asked to conserve their water supply as far as possible while repair work continues as reservoirs are re-filled.

Irish Defence Force soldiers have been deployed with vehicles and helicopters to help assess damage as thousands of staff from ESB, the Republic of Ireland's electricity network, worked to fix fallen and broken cables.

Crews from Northern Ireland will join efforts today while others from Scotland and France are expected to be drafted in to help from Wednesday.

Health and social care services have returned to normal today, according to the Department of Health.

Translink said buses and trains are operating today "but are subject to delays and alterations due to poor weather conditions". 

A woman and two men lost their lives yesterday.

In Co Louth, father-of-two Fintan Goss (33) died on the old Newry Road near Ravensdale, close to the border, after a tree fell on his car.

He was driving home at around 2.45pm yesterday when he was killed.

Mr Goss was returning from work and was just 10 minutes from home when the accident occurred, local councillor John McGahon said.

The Louth county councillor described Mr Goss, who he said became a father for the second time in recent weeks, and his family as "extremely well regarded in the community".

He added: "He will be greatly missed by his friends, family and the local community in Ravensdale.

"Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time."

The second man, named locally as 31-year-old Michael Pyke, was killed in a chainsaw accident in Cahir, Co Tipperary. He died at around 12.30pm when he was trying to clear a tree brought down by high winds.

Michael Pyke died when he was cutting up a fallen tree with a chainsaw near Cahir, Co Tipperary

Earlier, 58-year-old Clare O'Neill, died when a tree fell on her car.

The former nurse was killed while travelling outside Aglish village in Co Waterford at around 11.40am.

A female passenger in her seventies was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for treatment. Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Tributes were paid to Ms O'Neill, who worked as a nurse at Cork ARC Cancer Support House for more than a decade.

Ellen Joyce, director of services at the charity, said: "We are all deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and colleague, Clare O'Neill.

"She was a wonderful nurse and a special person who will be missed by the Cork ARC Cancer Support House team, our volunteers and all the people and patients she worked with here and in Youghal.

"Our thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time."

Clare O'Neill was killed when a tree hit her car outside Aglish village, Co Waterford

Several people were evacuated from apartments in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, last night amid fears of flooding due to tidal surges.

The people were asked to leave Rodgers Quay and were evacuated to a council hall late yesterday.

The PSNI last night warned people taking photographs along the Co Antrim coast to return to their homes.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled yesterday and bus, rail and ferry services were suspended. Many shops and businesses were forced to close before the storm hit or opted not to open at all. Schools were also closed.

Many parts of Ireland are counting the cost of the storm today.

Read more: Schools to remain closed for second day 

Analysis: Late announcement always bound to anger parents

Around 330,000 homes and businesses in the Republic were without electricity overnight after high winds tore down power lines. Some homes are not expected to be reconnected for more than a week.

Telecoms company eir has said "unprecedented" storm damage has left more than 11,000 customers without broadband, phone, and mobile services.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended his sympathies to the families of the three people who died.

He said work is already underway to assess the extent of the storm damage.

"As is always the case in national emergencies like this, full resources and additional funding will be available," he said.

Mr Varadkar has also spoken to British Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

Ophelia statistics:

  • 370,000 homes and businesses were without power at the peak of the storm at around 4pm on Monday afternoon
  • The strongest gusts of the day were recorded as 119mph at Fastnet Lighthouse off the south west coast of Ireland
  • The eye of the storm passed over Valentia Observatory in Co Kerry at around 10am
  • The storm first hit counties Kerry and Cork at around 5am, and was expected to have cleared Donegal and the north coast of Northern Ireland by midnight, making the total time Ophelia took to track the island 19 hours
  • The heaviest rainfall was in Belmullet in Co Mayo where 25.3mm fell. Meanwhile Dublin airport saw just one millimetre of rainfall

 

A Downing Street spokesman said: "On Storm Ophelia, the prime minister expressed her sympathies for the loss of life and said the UK government stood ready to provide any support if requested".

Up to 21,000 electricity customers in the north were also without power at around 8pm last night. By this morning around 4,000 remain without power, mainly in counties Down, Armagh and Antrim,

In the north, hundreds of trees were uprooted, including almost 200 which fell on roads.

There were several reports of trees falling on cars yesterday including on the Comber Road in Carryduff at around 3.50pm.

A spokesman for the Ambulance Service said everyone in the car was examined by paramedics but no one was taken to hospital.

NIE Networks also tweeted a photo of a car which just missed being hit by a falling tree that also brought down a power line.

No one was injured.

Meanwhile, there was criticism in the north that parents and teachers were not informed of today's school closures until late on Sunday.

David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, admitted that safety advice and information could have been disseminated better.

Speaking at Stormont before an emergency meeting with the permanent secretaries from all government departments, Mr Sterling said: "Perhaps in hindsight we may have done some things more quickly.

"But now we have given clear evidence and advice out to the community and we will continue to do that."

People on the pier wall during storm Ophelia on East Pier in Howth, Dublin. Picture by Caroline Quinn/PA Wire

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