More than 200,000 left without power as storm causes havoc

South and southwest worst affected in winds up to 160km/h

More than 200,000 homes were without electricity last night after high winds damaged buildings, toppled trees and caused widespread disruption, particularly in the southwest, yesterday.

The ESB, which said that more than 4,000 network faults had been identified, will this morning resume the mammoth task of restoring supplies.

Crews from other parts of the country have already been drafted in to the worst affected areas in the southwest. Priority will be given to securing power for the State’s key infrastructure, including water treatment plants and pumping stations.

Yesterday’s storm, which brought gusts of 160km/h, was well flagged by Met Eireann’s comparatively rare and most severe “status red” weather alert. It peaked in early afternoon, badly affecting the State’s transport network as a result of fallen trees and other disruption.

Hundreds of roads were affected, as were train services, buses, flights and ferries.

The southwest fared worst. In Killarney the 52 occupants of a nursing home were evacuated after its roof was damaged. A roof at Listellick national school in Co Kerry was blown off. Hundreds of trees in Killarney National Park were knocked down.

Patients on the top floor of Ennis General Hospital were moved because of fears that the roof had been damaged, but were later able to return to their wards.

In Kilkenny a major emergency was declared as the number of calls for assistance overwhelmed the response capacity. The emergency alert was stood down last night.

Dublin escaped comparatively lightly but there were still multiplde road closures as a result of fallen trees.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said the Government would be willing to consider allocating additional funding for emergency repairs.

He said €25m has already been allocated for humanitarian aid through the Department of Social Protection while yesterday the Government allocated a further €70m for emergency repairs.

“None of that has been drawn down yet but certainly the Government is willing to consider additional funds if they are needed,” he said.

'Widespread damage'
A spokesman for the ESB said there was "widespread damage" to the electricity network, with the south and southwest of the country worst affected.

The national co-ordination group on severe weather met in Dublin last night. “ESB crews will be working through the night to restore as many lines as possible. Because of the scale of damage it may take some time to restore supply to all customers,” it said.

ESB Networks managing director Jerry O’Sullivan said the situation was “as bad if not worse than anything that we have seen in the past decade”.

“In December, gusts of up to 130km/h caused widespread damage to the electricity network and left 80,000 customers without power.

“The devastation caused by today’s storms is of a totally different order of magnitude and will take longer to repair.”

Conditions are expected to improve today but another storm system is due to sweep across the country tomorrow. However, it is not expected to be as severe.

Met Eireann said the Kinsale gas platform recorded a maximum wave height of 25 metres yesterday afternoon. Apart from being a record at this location, it is also the highest maximum wave height ever recorded in Irish coastal waters.