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Editorial: Counting the cost of the Big Freeze

The effects of the Big Freeze will be felt for months, if not years, to come. Taoiseach Brian Cowen has conceded that the three-week spell of Arctic conditions will have an "economic cost" for the State, as well as having caused huge inconvenience.

Various estimates have put that cost as totalling hundreds of millions of euro, in lost sales, in transport and distribution difficulties, in broken limbs and burst pipes.

After enduring icy conditions for weeks, the new crisis appears to be a real threat of shortages in water supplies.

A huge rise in the consumption of water had led to shortages and rationing in many areas but the full effect of the weather on underground water pipes has yet to be realised.

The State's response to the weather crisis will be assessed and lessons must be learned from any shortcomings on the part of Government and local authorities.

The weather disruption was the very last thing this country needs as we hopefully take the first steps to economic recovery.

Let us hope it is a very long time before we see a repeat of such weather conditions.