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Turbulent time as 80mph winds pummel Northern Ireland

Gales caused chaos across Northern Ireland yesterday as |uprooted and fallen trees caused massive delays and road closures.

Buildings were also damaged, especially along the north coast, while fallen pylons cut power to thousands of homes.

The winds of up to 80mph led to the closure of the Foyle Bridge in Londonderry along with sections of several arterial routes into the city.

Two people were injured after hoardings came off a building at Lanyon Place in Belfast and hit a car.

They were taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

One person was slightly injured in Portrush when the roof flew off a building.

In Coleraine a tree fell on a man, but he was not seriously hurt.

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A tree also fell on a house in Dunadry in Co Antrim.

Motorists were also advised to use extreme caution after a tree blocked the hard shoulder on the motorway close to Coalisland.

Roads in several areas, including Keady in Co Armagh and Holywood in Co Down, were also closed for a time because of a number of fallen power cables.

Elsewhere a section of the Glenavy Road in Lisburn was shut because of a fallen electricity pole and live wires strewn across the road.

A spokeswoman for NIE said around 20,000 homes and businesses had been affected and encouraged customers to take “precautionary measures in the event of a power cut”.

“The damage has been widespread across all areas. Engineers have been on the ground from early morning restoring electricity supplies to customers,” she said.

In Co Antrim, a parked curtain-sided lorry trailer was blown over, while the Giant's Causeway was shut to tourists.

Traffic was also blocked for a time while efforts were made to move a shed which had blown onto the Lisnevenagh Road. The weather also played havoc with public transport as trains and buses faced ongoing delays and cancellations.

According to a spokeswoman for Translink, one train travelling on the Belfast to Bangor line was struck by a tree shortly before it reached Cultra station.

One passenger said there had been noticeable damage done to the vehicle’s windscreen.

The line was closed for a time, then reopened, but then shut again after more debris fell onto the track.

A speed restriction of 50mph was put in place across the entire rail network until further notice amid the chaos.

On the sea P&O and Stena Line ferries were forced to cancel the majority of their services because of rough seas.

The airports also felt the knock-on effect as Belfast International reverted to standby generators to avoid power outages.

A spokesperson for City of Derry airport said there may be some disruption to its scheduled flights at the airport.

A forecaster for the Met Office said an amber warning had been in place regarding the severity of the gale-force winds which he described as “very unusual for this time of year”.

“At this time of year it is very exceptional during May — it's very unusual and with trees in full leaf it just causes even more problems,” he said.

According to the Met Office, the wind will die off today with a few scattered gusts in the north coast area, but these will ease off during the latter part of the afternoon.

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