Coast Guard units ‘quadrupled’ missions during Storm Emma

Three-month old baby and six year-old child airlifted by helicopter during storm

The Sikorsky S-92 helicopters are equipped to fly in sub-zero conditions, as they have a rotor ice-protecting system which heats the helicopter blades. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

As rescue agencies appeal to people to exercise caution near coasts and waterways during the thaw, the Irish Coast Guard says its helicopters and 20 coastal units were “flat out” during Storm Emma.

A three-month old baby, a six-year old child, and a man with a cardiac condition were among people assisted by Coast Guard helicopters and shore-based units in the east, south-east and west over the past four days.

Activity quadrupled, according to operations manager Gerard O’Flynn, and all of the missions were onland, including transporting medical staff, patients requiring dialysis and delivering urgent medication .

Unusually, Medico Cork, which provides medical advice centre for air-sea rescues, played a key role in a mission in Co Wexford on Friday during the worst of the storm.


A patient requiring advance paramedic treatment could not be reached by helicopter due to conditions, and was taken to hospital by the Coast Guard unit from Courtown, Co Wexford.

The Dublin-based Rescue 116 helicopter undertook five missions over the weekend, including airlifting a three-month old baby from home on the Wicklow/Kildare border to hospital, and taking a six-year old child from Co Kildare to hospital.

The Sligo-based Rescue 118 and Waterford-based Rescue 117 helicopters were also tasked a number of times for a total of seven medical transfers over the three days.

The Sikorsky S-92 helicopters are equipped to fly in sub-zero conditions, as they have a rotor ice-protecting system which heats the helicopter blades.

The Coast Guard shore units based in Dunmore East and Bunmahon,Co Waterford ferried up to 100 staff to and from hospital in Waterford, and land units in counties Louth, Wicklow, Wexford, Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Galway were also tasked to assist the Health Service Executive and Garda.

Urgent elective surgery and all outpatient appointments will resume at the Saolta group hospitals in Galway city and county from Monday. The hospital group says there will be "some curtailment" of non-urgent elective procedures and the hospitals will contact patients directly to reschedule appointments.

The emergency department at University Hospital, Galway, is reported to be “busy”, and discharges are low. Some patients discharged on Friday were accommodated in local guesthouses until it was safe for families to travel to collect them.

Minister for Energy Denis Naughten has been informed that there was no shortage of oil during the serious weather alert, and no need to utilise strategic oil reserves.

Some filling stations did run short of fuel due to a "short- term distribution problem", when oil terminals at Dublin Port and Whitegate refinery in Cork could not be accessed by road tankers, a spokeswoman for Mr Naughten confirmed. Both have now re-opened, she said.

Also, some road hauliers would not deliver fuel during a red weather warning for health and safety and insurance reasons, the spokeswoman confirmed. The situation was returning to normal on Sunday with deliveries occurring where “road access allows”.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times