Belfast Telegraph

Thousands still without power amid huge recovery operation after Ophelia

Thousands of people remain without power and water following Storm Ophelia, with a huge recovery operation under way across Ireland.

Three people died when the ex-hurricane, the strongest storm to hit Ireland in almost 60 years, battered the country on Monday.

A major clean-up and repair operation has begun with engineers working to restore downed power lines and crews clearing away fallen trees.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who visited engineers working to restore power in some of the worst-hit areas, said it could be eight days before some people get power switched back on.

"It is anticipated that the vast majority of people will have power restored in the next three to four days," he said.

"Some may be without power for eight days."

Father-of-two Fintan Goss, 33, was killed in Ravensdale, Dundalk, when a car he was in was struck by a tree 10 minutes from home on Monday.

Louth county councillor John McGahon 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".

In Cahir, Co Tipperary, 31-year-old Michael Pyke was killed in a chainsaw accident when he was trying to clear a tree downed by the wind.

Earlier, former oncology nurse Clare O'Neill, who was just short of her 59th birthday, died when a tree fell on her car in strong winds near Aglish village in Co Waterford.

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."

Mr Varadkar said there had been two incidents where emergency workers had almost died due to downed power lines.

Around 170,000 customers were still without power on Tuesday afternoon, with the worst damage in the southern part of the Republic.

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 refilled.

Soldiers have been deployed in the Republic, along with two military vehicles and two helicopters to help assess damage as thousands of ESB staff work to fix fallen and broken cables.

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

A spokesman for ESB said there had been reports of a number of "very near misses" involving those working to restore supply almost making contact with live electrical wires.

He urged members of the public to remain vigilant and stay safe if they come across any fallen wires.

Following reports that some people had ignored the "danger to life" warnings issued, Sean Hogan, chairman of the national emergency co-ordination group, said: "I deplore people who put lives of public sector workers at risk from some of their actions.

"I think they need to have a strong look at themselves."

Schools, which took a second day off, are expected to reopen on Wednesday although some may be unable to do so due to damage, a spokeswoman for the Republic's education authority said.

A clear-up operation is also under way in Northern Ireland, where around 1,800 homes and businesses are still experiencing disrupted electricity supplies, with the worst affected parts across counties Down, Armagh and Antrim.

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, said: "As people return to work there is a need for care, particularly in relation to large trees and electric lines.

"Contractors should also check all scaffolding to ensure it hasn't moved during the storm."

The civil contingencies group, which helped co-ordinate the response in Northern Ireland, was stood down on Tuesday morning after updates from agencies involved in the clear-up.

Violent winds peaked at 119mph (191kph) at Fastnet Lighthouse off the south-west coast of Ireland during the storm.

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