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Tuesday 6 December 2016

240,000-tonne salt stockpile will melt winter's icy grip

Published 10/11/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney pictured at a press briefing during the Launch of the Be Winter Ready Information Campaign by the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning at the Dept of Agriculture. Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney pictured at a press briefing during the Launch of the Be Winter Ready Information Campaign by the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning at the Dept of Agriculture. Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath

More than 240,000 tonnes of salt - more than twice the amount used last year - has been stockpiled to keep roads open if severe weather strikes.

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Housing Minister Simon Coveney also that said more than 1,800 emergency beds would be available for rough sleepers in the event of sub-zero temperatures or prolonged rainfall during the winter months.

Speaking at the launch of the annual 'Be Winter Ready' public awareness campaign, Mr Coveney said the Government wanted to ensure that anyone in need of accommodation would secure shelter.

"We will be adding 210 emergency beds in three new premises being prepared for emergency accommodation and are told by Dublin City Council they'll be ready by December 9," he said. "That will bring the number to over 1,800 emergency beds for rough sleepers.

"When I asked for the view of stakeholders as to how many beds we need to add, the figure was around 150. We have added 210 in case numbers increase. Money is not an issue in terms of the response."

The Be Winter Ready campaign offers practical advice to homeowners, motorists, schools, the farming community and business sectors through a dedicated website, www.winterready.ie. A twitter account can be accessed on @emergencyIE.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Gerald Fleming said it was not possible to generate long-term forecasts for winter weather, but that he could not see any "significant risks" at this time.

"You will have seen scare stories about hard winters, but there are no scientific grounds for saying this," he said. "I can't say a storm won't brew. We're in the lap of what Mother Nature throws at us.

"October was dry, but September was wet and it's usually dry. In the north-west, there's a fairly high water table and saturated soil, but we're heading into the winter without having had a prolonged dry spell. We're not unusually poorly, or well, set up."

The Be Winter Ready campaign is focused on flooding and safe driving, and comes as the number of people killed on the roads is up 31 over the same period of last year.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said the winter was a "very dangerous period".

"We are now getting into a period when they [road deaths] could accelerate again. We want to ensure that those on the roads, on rail, on the sea and in the air are not put in danger," he said.

Mr Ross said more than 240,000 tonnes of de-icing salt would be available this year. Last winter, 96,000 tonnes was used, and more could be procured if necessary.

The message of the campaign is: Be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help if you need it. Information is collated from government departments, the HSE, the Office of Public Works, local authorities and transport companies.

Irish Independent

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