Belfast Telegraph

Driving to safety from Storm Eleanor waves 'a walk in the park'

A social worker who drove to safety as waves broke around her during Storm Eleanor said God would protect her.

Social media footage showed Selina Callaghan motoring along the surging waterline but she said she was seeking safety and a car park exit.

The 28-year-old, from Donegal in north-west Ireland, said she was "cool, calm and collected" and compared the experience with a walk in the park.

She had been celebrating the new year with friends in Galway on the west coast and was watching the growing swell from the promenade at Salthill on Tuesday night.

She said: "Yesterday was like a walk in the park, fire is much more harmful than water, you just need to respect the water and it will respect you."

Irish authorities had issued their second highest alert.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the island lost power overnight as the storm swept in from the west.

Winds of up to 100mph wreaked significant damage and caused flooding on the Atlantic coast.

Pictures from Galway city centre on Tuesday evening showed cars ploughing through high water and business owners struggling to protect their properties.

Rescuers waded through knee-high water.

One car bobbed in the high coastal waters and drivers attempted to reach safe ground.

Ms Callaghan, from Kerrykeel, near Letterkenny, only returned to the country 10 weeks ago after spending five years in Australia.

She and a couple of friends were in Galway City for the new year and were watching the storm nearby.

They moved their cars to the back of the car park as the water came closer.

"It happened that quick, by the time we parked there, literally the waves were coming, the water was getting deeper and deeper, nearly coming into our cars.

"The panic stations were on for my friend.

"I was like, 'just relax'."

She said she was not afraid. "Only by the grace of God I get through everything.

"I was at the beach because the beach is my favourite place in the whole world.

"I love the beach because it makes me calm, I feel close to God there.

"I know that he will look after me, I don't need to fear."

She said she knew exactly what she was doing.

"I would not put myself in a risky situation, I am literally heading out of a risky situation, I am not putting myself at any form of risk."

Some cars were abandoned in Oranmore near Galway as roads were blocked while others in a car park in Salthill were partially submerged.

At least 55,000 properties experienced blackouts overnight as the winter storm damaged the network.

County Mayo was hardest hit.

A statement from power supply company ESB Networks said its staff worked in difficult conditions to get customers re-connected.

It said counties worst affected in the Republic included Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

Across the island, fallen trees forced road closures.

The authorities warned of the possibility of localised coastal flooding in Atlantic counties over the next two days of high tides.

Rainfall was predicted to be between 10-20mm countrywide, with Galway and Donegal possibly receiving 25-30mm in what is described as "packing showers".

There was another system of low pressure moving towards Ireland which was expected Wednesday into Thursday and which was being monitored by Met Eireann.

Overall 150,000 homes, farms and businesses suffered a loss of electricity supply as a result of Storm Eleanor on Tuesday evening, predominantly in counties Mayo, Leitrim, Sligo, Galway, Cavan and Monaghan.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has activated its Humanitarian Assistance Scheme which is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair.

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