Storm Ali: Two dead as record winds batter Ireland

An oil delivery driver had was injured and had a luck escape when a large tree fell on his truck in Osborne Park in south Belfast Picture Mal McCann.
An oil delivery driver had was injured and had a luck escape when a large tree fell on his truck in Osborne Park in south Belfast Picture Mal McCann.

TWO people, including an NI Water contractor, were killed yesterday as Storm Ali swept across Ireland bringing wind speeds of more than 100mph.

The engineer, a man in his 20s, was working at a water pumping station at Slieve Gullion Forest Park with another worker, when a tree fell on them.

The second man was seriously injured during the incident yesterday morning during high winds.

In a statement NI Water said the man was an employee of one of its contractors.

“NI Water is currently working closely with the Emergency Services, the Health and Safety Executive and the PSNI and will do everything possible to assist.

“Our thoughts are with the families of those involved at this time.”

Earlier a woman in her 50s, believed to be a Swiss tourist, died after a caravan was blown over a cliff in Co Galway.

As the first storm of the season hit Irish shores gusts of more than 90mph felled trees, closed roads and caused widespread power cuts.

The storm brought the strongest September winds ever recorded in Northern Ireland.

Killowen in Co Down saw gusts of up to 91mph at 11am. Winds of up to 89 mph were recorded at Mace Head in Co Galway.

High winds led to:

- power cuts to hundreds of thousands of homes across Ireland

- widespread road closures - including the M1 - due to fallen trees

- a flight being diverted to Liverpool

- the cancellation of sports and civic council meetings, including the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co Offaly

- the closure of parks and playgrounds across Belfast and Derry

Co Tyrone man David Gwyer from Galbally suffered cuts to his body and had to have stitches after a tree smashed through the roof of his car as he was travelling to work in Athlone in Co Westmeath.

His partner, Rachel Carr, said Mr Gwyer was "very shaken".

"Our car has a glass roof and the tree just came straight through it," she said.

There were also reports of trees falling on cars and property across the north. In Osborne Park in south Belfast an oil tank driver had a lucky escape when a falling tree crashed through the windscreen of his lorry.

At the height of the storm, hundreds of thousands of homes in the north and the Republic were without power.

Late yesterday, 29,000 homes in the north had no power. A spokeswoman for NIE Networks said: "We are expecting that the majority of customers affected will have power restored tomorrow however some small, isolated pockets of customers are likely to be without power for longer".

More than 126,000 homes in the Republic also experienced power cuts.

The north's Department for Infrastructure said more than 60 roads had been closed and it had received more than 1,000 reports of fallen trees or branches.

Several streets, including East Bridge Street in Enniskillen, were closed due to falling roof tiles.

The storm brought down electricity cables on the M1, leading to the closure of the motorway in both directions from 8.40am yesterday.

All train services in the north experienced delays due to speed restrictions. Several ferry crossings to Rathlin and Cairnryan were also cancelled.

Across Belfast, parks, playgrounds and playing fields were closed.

In the south of the city, Botanic Avenue was closed due to fallen trees.

In Derry, the Foyle Bridge was closed to traffic. The city's parks and cemeteries were shut although burials did take place.

A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane District Council warned householders not to leave out their bins but put them in a safe place to reduce the risk of obstruction or "potential injury" on roads and streets.

The PSNI warned yesterday it had experienced a "dramatic increase" in calls to 101 and 999.

In the Republic, dozens of flights were cancelled at Dublin airport, the second day of the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co Offaly, was called off and Dublin's Phoenix Park was shut.