Belfast Telegraph

Ophelia clean-up operation under way as Northern Ireland picks up the pieces

Homes blacked out, 400 road incidents reported and 75 calls to the Fire Service

By Victoria Leonard

Northern Ireland was left counting the cost of Storm Ophelia yesterday, as violent winds from the ex-hurricane closed schools, grounded flights and led to evacuations along coastal areas.

Shortly before midnight, NIE confirmed that around 8,000 customers would be without electricity overnight across the province.

Supplies were restored to 41,000 customers, and crews in some areas worked through the night to repair the network. Southern and eastern areas were the worst affected.

NIE Networks Communications spokesperson Sara McClintock said: "We are currently dealing with nearly 1,000 individual faults which we continue to assess, make safe and begin repairs.

"All of our 12 Local Incident Centres are open, with our engineers and emergency crews responding to faults and working to restore customer supplies in extremely poor conditions."

Around 160 Department for Infrastructure staff and contractors cleared debris from around 100 roads.

The Department received around 400 road-related incident, but all motorways are now open.

Around 200 roads were still affected last night, with around 40 roads closed including the A2 Shore road Larne to Cushendall and the Dark Hedges road in north Antrim.

Meanwhile, the Fire Service received 75 weather-related calls between 2pm and 10pm yesterday and attended 30 incidents.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Walmsley said there had been no injuries as the public had largely heeded safety advice.

"It was good that a lot of people listened to the safety advice, a lot of workplaces closed early and people stayed inside," he said.

"We attended 30 incidents across the province that were weather-related, ranging from electrical poles to a number of buildings which had to be made safe as they were losing parts of their structure.

"There was also a road traffic collision involving a tree falling onto a car on the Comber Road. The lady had a lucky escape as she was in the vehicle and the tree landed on her bonnet."

In east Antrim, the tide came over the sea wall at Whitehead and the Gobbins Visitor Centre was opened as a Rest Centre.

Sandbags were also deployed in Newcastle and Newtownards as tidal surges threatened the coast.

"Our flood teams were working with police to evacuate residents from apartments in the Rodgers Quay area of Carrickfergus due to the risk of flooding from tidal surges. Residents have been taken to the town hall," said Mr Walmsley.

"Our crews also helped to move residents of Whitehead Private Nursing Home to a higher floor, and we have a crew standing by at a number of properties on the seafront in Whitehead due to the flood risk."

Larne and Bangor RNLI were scrambled and about to launch into winds gusting up to 60mph following reports of people in the water at Whitehead. Just as they were about to sail out, the PSNI found the two females concerned ashore safe and well.

Schools and all further education colleges across Northern Ireland are also closed for a second day today.

The Department of Education, which had faced criticism for only issuing Monday's closure notice for schools very late on Sunday night, ensured that parents were given more warning ahead of today's closure.

Derek Baker, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education, said: "I fully appreciate this decision will impact on the work of the schools and indeed on other businesses and services but the decision has been taken to avoid any potential risk to life for children and young people as well as staff."

All colleges also remain closed today.

Airline Flybe, which had been forced to cancel around 170 flights, including all those to and from Belfast City Airport yesterday, says it is planning to operate a "normal schedule" across its network today.

A Met Office yellow weather warning for "very strong winds" of between 50 and 60mph will remain in place until 3pm today.

Belfast Telegraph

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