3 killed, over 300,000 without power as freak storm hits Ireland
Three people were killed while more than 300,000 customers were left without power, and schools and government offices shut down, as Ireland was hit by what officials called an “unprecedented storm” on Monday.
A police spokesman said the first fatality was a woman in her 50s, who died outside the village of Aglish, near the south coast, when a tree fell on her car. Her female passenger, who is in her 70s, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The second fatality was a man killed in an accident while he was clearing a fallen tree with a chainsaw near the town of Cahir, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) further inland, while the third victim was a man killed on the roads by a falling tree north of Dundalk in the northeast, close to the border with Northern Ireland.
“Ophelia” – the largest hurricane ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest north since 1939 – was downgraded to a storm before it hit the Irish coast but nonetheless wrought havoc in the island northwest of Europe.
“It will still however bring violent and destructive winds for a time,” Met Eireann, the Irish National Meteorological Service, said on Monday.
The Irish National Meteorological Service also said that flooding was also expected “due to either heavy thundery downpours or storm surges in coastal areas,” as it issued a red alert for the whole country.
Winds reached 191 kilometers per hour (kph) at Fastnet Rock, Ireland’s southernmost point, while the strongest winds recorded onshore were 156 kph at the entrance to Cork Harbor in the southwest.
Seventeen millimeters of rain fell at Valentia on the southwest coast, including nine millimeters (third of an inch) in one hour.
The Electricity Supply Board said 330,000 customers were without power, due to more than 3,200 individual faults on the network.
“We can predict that it will take a number of days to restore power to all customers. Five to 10 per cent of this number will be without power for up to 10 days,” the board said.
Dublin Airport scrapped 180 flights while Cork Airport cancelled most flights in what it said was the worst storm seen in its 56-year history. Meanwhile, several services to and from Shannon, the third-biggest airport, were also grounded.
Across the border in Northern Ireland, Belfast airport also saw extensive delays and cancellations.
Power cuts affected 18,000 customers in Northern Ireland, after power lines and poles came down due to strong winds and flying debris, supplier NIE Networks said.
“Stay indoors wherever you are until the storm has passed,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. “I don’t want anyone to think that this is anything other than a national emergency and a red alert.”
The Department of Education closed all schools, colleges and other education institutions on Monday due to the “unprecedented storm”, with Minister Richard Burton saying schools would remain closed on Tuesday.
Government offices were also shut.
Ireland’s top football team Cork City were hit when their stadium roof collapsed, the day before they hoped to seal the league title at their Turners Cross ground.
The eye of the storm is forecast to track across Northern Ireland and then Scotland.
Though it will weaken as it goes, gusts are expected to reach 129 kph (80 mph) in the UK.
Britain’s Met Office issued amber severe weather warnings for Northern Ireland, Wales, and southern Scotland, saying power cuts, transport disruption, flying debris and large waves were likely.
“This leads to the potential for injuries and danger to life,” the national weather service said.
The fringes of the storm turned the hitherto sunny afternoon skies over London a murky shade of brown-orange, due to the southerly warm winds bringing dust from the Sahara Desert.
Ophelia came 30 years to the day after the Great Storm, which ravaged southern England in the early hours of October 16, 1987, leaving 18 people dead.
Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the 2017 Atlantic season, which is expected to last until the end of November.
Three major hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – caused catastrophic damage in the Caribbean and the US Gulf Coast.
Ophelia was classed Category 3 on Saturday as it passed near Portugal’s Azores islands, which means it packed winds of at least 178 kilometers per hour.
Though seven of the nine islands in the Azores were on high alert, the storm did not cause major damage. /kga
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