Friday 30 September 2016

Major tourist route is closed after landslide causes havoc

Published 25/06/2016 | 02:30

The scene in Connemara where tonnes of bog has closed the N59. Photo:Andrew Downes
The scene in Connemara where tonnes of bog has closed the N59. Photo:Andrew Downes

One of the most popular tourist routes in the country will remain closed for the weekend after a major landslide saw more than 4,000 tonnes of bog collapse onto the N59 in Galway.

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The landslide on the main route into Connemara, which connects Galway city to Clifden, began at 7.30pm at Lettershea, just 8km from Clifden town, on Thursday evening.

Thomas O’Sullivan from Galway County Council at the scene in Connemara where a landslide has closed the N59 (the main Galway to Clifden road) 10km outside Clifden. Photo: Andrew Downes
Thomas O’Sullivan from Galway County Council at the scene in Connemara where a landslide has closed the N59 (the main Galway to Clifden road) 10km outside Clifden. Photo: Andrew Downes

Galway County Council initially got the problem under control by midnight, but a significant second landslide at 3.30am yesterday morning exacerbated the problem.

Up to 100m of roadway has been buried by the sea of peat and bog material as several thousand tonnes of land collapsed onto the road - with more continuing to flow down.

Galway County Council crews worked throughout the night to try and control the damage.

However, they warned that the collapsing bogland was still seriously unstable, with peat continuing to "flow" onto the road.

Diversions have been put in place, with the council warning motorists to expect an additional 45 minutes to be added to their journey as the road is the main route into Connemara and is the main artery for tourists and bus tours to the region.

No one was injured in the landslide and no property was damaged as a result of the deluge.

While such landslides are highly unusual at this time of year, the long dry spell followed by the heavy rain on Sunday, and then the cloudburst on Thursday, caused the unexpected landslide, said Liam Gavin of Galway County Council.

Mr Gavin described the landslide as significant and warned that any clean-up was being greatly hampered by the type of material and the continued vulnerability of the surrounding bog.

He said the continuing slide was very difficult to stop as sandbags would have no impact and the material could not be cleared up with tankers.

"We've already seen in the region of 4,000 tonnes of material literally flow onto the road - and the quantity is rising. We are looking at possibly a lot more coming down on top of us," he said.

As council crews work constantly to clear up the growing mass of soil and water-filled peat from the road, engineers are also assessing the surrounding boglands to ascertain if the landslide can be stopped or diverted.

"We are getting it off the road as quickly as we can but more material is literally flowing into its place right away," he added.

"We are assessing what we can do to stop it. The sandbags would be useless in helping to stop it as the pressure building up behind would just burst right through them.

"We are looking at an area where there is a ravine or small gulley and we are assessing if we could get the material diverted," he added.

While the rate of flow had slowed considerably by yesterday evening Mr Gavin said that significant works would be required before the affected section of the road is judged to be safe to re-open.

He warned motorists using the N59 that diversions will remain in place over the weekend.

Diversions were put in place via the Inagh Valley through Kylemore and Letterfrack, or via Roundstone, with the council warning coaches and tourists in particular to take additional care on the narrower roads.

Irish Independent

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