More storm funds required to repair infrastructure - Hogan
Tens of thousands without crucial services as repair efforts continue across the country
A section of a 2km line of sandbags along the Shannon river at St Mary’s Park, Limerick. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22
More funds will be needed to help repair damage to public infrastructure after one of the worst storms to hit the country in decades wreaked havoc in the south and midwest, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said yesterday.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses remain without electricity two days after Storm Darwin damaged buildings, tore down power lines and trees and caused widespread travel disruption.
More than 100,000 electricity customers were still without power yesterday as emergency repair crews were assisted by helicopters to survey damage in the worst affected areas.
Some 65 schools were closed due to storm damage and an estimated 100,000 Eircom customers in the south and southwest were without telephone and broadband services.
Speaking following a meeting of the Government’s emergency weather committee, Mr Hogan said the €70 million storm relief fund announced earlier this week would only cover damage caused by storms in December and January. “This is a rolling maul and we’ve had eight storms. The Government is keeping this under review,”he said.
“We started with €70 million of an allocation – that is only giving us the necessary resources for the damage that was done in January. You can expect that there will be additional resources required in order to put back the physical infrastructure in its proper shapes as quickly as possible,” he said.
Mr Hogan did not specify where the funding would come from other than to say it would follow submissions from local authorities and Government departments. Calling on landowners to check for storm damage, Mr Hogan said: “After eight storms there are certainly going to be a lot of unsettled trees on properties, I would ask property owners to have a look at those trees to see if they can be made more safe.”
Emergency repair crews worked around the clock today to restore electricity and communications to tens of thousands of customers but the damage caused by the storm was so severe that authorities say it will take some time before services are fully restored.
“Our primary objective is to get communities back functioning again as quickly as possible. To get power back to homes today and over the coming days and to the infrastructure that has been affected; to get the roads open and get public transport operating again,” said chairman of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group, Seán Hogan. “The next few days are going to be a severe test of the resilience of the households which have been affected and which are without electricity.”
ESB representative on the emergency committee Paul Hickey said: “There’s much more significant damage at our medium-voltage and our high-voltage networks so it is going to take time and I think people should prepare to be without power and make preparations for a couple of days.”
The company has mobilised some 2,000 people to help with storm repairs. “At the moment we are assessing the damage and prioritising the key infrastructure customers,” he said. “We have three helicopters available to us. The weather is not helping matters but we will work as hard and as long as we can to get power back.”
Eircom said that more than 600 cases of falling trees taking down overhead poles and wires had been reported. The company’s network experienced widespread damage with “particularly high-fault volumes” in counties Limerick, Carlow, Cork, Tipperary, Wexford, Kerry and Waterford. “It will take a number of weeks before everyone is restored,” a company spokesman said.
“Thankfully, despite the extraordinary conditions, there has been no loss of life reported associated with the storm,” Mr Hogan said.