Many homes still in dark after fierce winter storms
ESB crews battle elements to continue repairs following widespread damage by high winds
THOUSANDS of Irish homes were still without power yesterday, following last Thursday's ferocious storm which wreaked havoc nationwide.
Ireland's worst winter storm for 15 years caused chaos for travellers and left more than 78,000 homes without power.
ESB Networks crews are continuing repairs throughout the weekend in an attempt to restore power to thousands of residents across the country who have been in darkness since the storm hit late Thursday night and continued to rage into the early hours of Friday morning.
ESB crews nationwide have had to battle against the elements to cope with about 1,000 individual line faults across more than a dozen counties, and while crews have managed to restore power to more than 75,000 homes, 3,000 are still waiting to be reconnected.
"Today, supply to over 10,000 homes and businesses has been restored through fixing over 500 faults across the country. Due to additional damage that arose late last night and pockets of customers who are without supply after the damage to the main network is fixed, 3,000 customers now remain without power," a spokesperson for the ESB said last night.
They predicted that a number of more difficult faults will leave about 800 customers without power into today.
"Crews have travelled from areas less affected to assist in the south and south-west, where the majority of the faults occurred. Bandon, Killarney, Galway, Ennis, Newcastlewest and Tralee remain the key areas affected," he added.
"In situations where storms have caused extensive damage to the electricity networks across the country, fixing the smaller, more localised faults can be frustratingly slow for both customers and network technicians."
Many of the faults have been caused by falling trees and branches, which ESB crews need to cut and remove before the power supply repair work can begin.
Additional faults during Friday night in areas such as Glasnevin and Ballymun in Dublin have also hampered the repair effort, increasing the workload.
Miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured, despite dozens of large trees crashing down in the 150kph winds which swept through the country, ripping the roofs off schools in Kerry and Dublin and damaging a hospital entrance canopy in Cork.
There was similar disruption to Ireland's telephone network. Eircom said it had restored 1,000 lines yesterday and 350 crews were still working to rectify faults caused by wind, rain and lightning strikes. Cork, Galway, Mayo, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford were the worst affected areas
According to meteorologist Vincent O'Shea, Ireland had not experienced winds of such force in a winter storm for more than 15 years.
The worst of the damage to the country's power grid was sustained by counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Wexford, Tipperary, Galway, Mayo, Kildare and Westmeath.
In Glanmire, Co Cork, one family had a miraculous escape when a giant beech tree toppled across a busy road and hit their home.The tree, which had stood by the main entrance to St Stephen's Hospital, directly across the road from the O'Riain family home, fell shortly before 2am on Friday, when the storm was at its height.
Met Eireann has called off the severe weather warnings which have been in place for much of the country this week, saying the worst winds are now over.
However, in the UK, hundreds of flood warnings remain in place as more showers threaten to delay further the clean-up operation. More than 1,200 UK homes flooded while many rivers burst their banks and flooding made roads impassable.
The UK Environment Agency has issued more than 130 flood alerts across central and southern England, 34 of which urge residents to take immediate action.
Met Eireann said it expects the unsettled weather pattern to continue into the New Year.
Today will be dry and bright with clear spells, but some heavy showers and hailstones will hit the west, before a cold night with lows of 2C to --3C. Tomorrow, an early frost will clear and we will see some sunshine for a time, but southerly winds will strengthen in the afternoon, when conditions are expected to again be wet and windy.
BY JOANNA KIERNAN