Wednesday 18 September 2019

Massive clean-up operations begin in areas that resemble a 'war zone'

Ethel O’Donovan and children Seán and Siobhán with part of the roof from Douglas Community School Photos: Mark Condren
Ethel O’Donovan and children Seán and Siobhán with part of the roof from Douglas Community School Photos: Mark Condren
Farmer John O’Connell. Photos: Mark Condren
Douglas Community School Photos: Mark Condren

Ralph Riegel

Munster launched the biggest clean-up operation in modern history to deal with the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Ophelia.

Parts of Cork resembled a war zone with fallen trees, damaged houses and debris scattered everywhere.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy visited the county yesterday as part of the Government's emergency response.

He viewed some of the worst storm damage and vowed that the Government would provide whatever resources are necessary to support the clean-up operation.

One Cork family spoke of their incredible escape from death after a giant piece of a school roof was hurled 100 metres and crashed into their back garden.

Mother-of-four Ethel O'Donovan said her daughter Siobhán (19) was just about to walk out the back door to the garden shed when the heavy piece of roofing panel flew over a wall from the nearby Douglas Community School.

"What saved us was the fact the piece of roof embedded itself into our garden decking," Mrs O'Donovan said.

"Siobhán was just inches away - God only knows what would have happened if the piece of roof had hit the back of the house."

The 15-metre piece of roofing - heavy with layered insulation - crushed a garden shed, smashed part of the decking and came within inches of hitting the O'Donovan's back door.

"My husband only put the decking down a few weeks ago," Mrs O'Donovan said.

Three of her children, Hillary, Siobhán and Seán, watched in horror as the slab of heavy roofing ploughed into their garden at the height of the storm.

"It was pretty scary, alright," said Seán (16).

Douglas Community School principal Jim Long said that he still cannot believe the force of the winds.

The sheeting was ripped off the roof with such force it smashed through a concrete wall some 80 metres from the school - and then peppered local gardens in Traberg Avenue and Clermont Avenue with large fragments.

"I was here at the height of the storm and the winds were unbelievable," Mr Long said.

"The noise was just unbelievable. The sound of the wind and the gusts was incredible. I heard a smashing sound and the next thing I realised the roof of the gym had given way."

In Glanmire, farmer John O'Connell was without power or water last night. A tree fell onto a power line close to his farm during the storm, leaving him in the dark.

"ESB crews are on site here now. I'm waiting to get my cows milked. It's coming on two days without milking and it is quite dangerous and very uncomfortable for them. 

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"Because my electricity is gone, my well is down so I have no water either.

"My cattle are the priority now so everything else is in second place. I'm going to wait up all night if I have to and get my cows milked," said Mr O'Connell from his home last night.

Cork City Council had more than 300 crews and contractors, including fire brigade, roads, environment and housing departments, working from dawn.

The clean-up effort was even greater in Cork county where some towns were left without water, electricity and even mobile phone coverage.

Thousands of households around Cork could now be without water and power supplies for days.

Cork homes account for the bulk of the 68,000 Irish Water customers left without supplies in the wake of Ophelia.

At the peak of the storm, between 80,000 and 100,000 customers lost water supplies.

ESB repair crews are now giving priority to restoring electricity to Irish Water pumping stations amid fears that if power is not restored within 24 hours, more than 320,000 people could find their water supplies at risk.

The revelation came as Irish Water began tanker supplies in some areas of Cork where power-dependent water services have been knocked out following the storm.

Worst hit were areas of Kinsale, Innishannon, Skibbereen, Cobh, Youghal, Fermoy, Glanworth, Glenville and Castlemartyr.

Cork City FC proceeded with their championship-deciding match against Derry City last night after engineers had examined the Derrynane Stand which partly collapsed when Ophelia's 130kmh winds tore through the Turner's Cross ground.

One of the iconic images of Ophelia was the sight of 35 lime trees lying shattered along the Centre Park Road which leads to the Páirc Uí Chaoimh GAA ground. The trees were among more than 150 toppled across Cork city at the height of the storm's fury.

More than 400 trees were toppled across Cork county - three of which blocked the Fota Road and trapped residents in Cobh and Great Island.

Cllr Cathal Rasmussen said it was "beyond belief" that a major Irish town should have just a single, vulnerable access point.

Cork City Council staff said it will take up to four days to clear the giant fallen lime trees from Centre Park Road.

David Brown, of specialist tree firm Dermot Casey Ltd, said he had never witnessed such devastation before.

"I have never seen the like of it - it is hard to believe what happened," he said.

Outside Millstreet, one-third of the Kilcorney Church roof was ripped off at the height of the storm.

Parish priest Fr William Winter said while locals were shocked by the damage to the church, they were "very thankful" that no one was hurt locally during the storm.

Kilcorney Parish Council member Pat Sheehan said the fear is that the damage could be exacerbated by poor weather over the coming days.

Irish Independent

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