Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Lives at risk' as hospital lost power during €10m ESB substation blaze

Published 19/04/2016 | 20:15

The scene of the fire at the ESB substation in Bluebell in south Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The scene of the fire at the ESB substation in Bluebell in south Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Hospital patients' lives were put at risk during a power outage as a result of a €10m blaze at an ESB substation, an ESB boss has said.

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Thieves trying to steal copper wire from the substation sparked the multimillion euro fire in Bluebell, Dublin on Sunday evening.

ESB Networks said that 120,000 customers were left without power when the 220KV substation was targeted.

It has now emerged that Tallaght Hospital also briefly lost power during the fire.

The blaze at the ESB substation in Bluebell in south Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The blaze at the ESB substation in Bluebell in south Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

ESB Head of Distribution Senan Colleran said the thieves "put people's lives at risk".

Speaking to Today FM's The Last Word, Mr Colleran said: "Tallaght Hospital lost supply. These people were putting lives at risk.

The scene of the fire at the Inchicore ESB Sub Station on Kylemore Road. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The scene of the fire at the Inchicore ESB Sub Station on Kylemore Road. Photo: Steve Humphreys

"Not only did they put their own lives at risk, they put other people's lives at risk too."

In response to a programme listener's message that a pharmaceutical plant in West Dublin lost up to €5m as a result of the fire, he said: "We did everything possible. We do operate a smart network which meant we could distribute power to those who had lost it."

Mr Colleran said to date, one person has been killed and a number of people have suffered serious burns as a result of copper thieving.

"These people took their lives into their own hands trying to steal copper from control cables, they inadvertently started a fire.

Photo: Dublin Fire Brigade
Photo: Dublin Fire Brigade

"It's not just an ESB issue, it's a European issue.

"Copper is a scarce commodity worldwide and it is very valuable.

"They sell it onto the metal traders, I'm not sure where it ends up but it's sold on into the trade.

"The garda are actively involved and we have massive cooperation from gardai in this area," he continued.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Daithí de Róiste described the incident as "sheer stupidity".

"This is highly dangerous equipment," he said.

"We need to make sure that the gardai have the resources and it's top of the agenda and needs to be tackled.

"I must commend the ESB and Dublin Fire Brigade for putting their lives at risk to get this under control," he added.

A spokesperson for Tallaght Hospital told Independent.ie the hospital has a "business continuity back up plan" to manage scenarios such as power outages.

"This includes having back up power generators on site and additional battery support for all critical care areas," the spokesperson said.

"These systems all operated as normal and there was no risk to patients as a result of the incident."

Since 2012, over 150km of copper, valued at €3m, has been stolen, with a replacement cost to ESB Networks at €28m.

The rise in thefts forced the electricity supplier to launch a nationwide campaign last August.

In a statement released last night by Crimestoppers, the electricity supplier said that there will be a reward for information that leads to a prosecution in this case. The blaze caused the loss of electricity supply across Inchicore, Lucan, Tallaght and Rathfarnham and other parts of west Dublin for 50 minutes.

ESB Networks has reminded the public and the perpetrators of the criminal activity of the dangers of interfering with electricity infrastructure.

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