Fears for vulnerable during cold spell as pensioner found dead


WITH MET Éireann warning that the cold spell is set to continue until early next week, heightened concern has been expressed for the homeless and other people vulnerable to the freezing temperatures.

Gardaí were last night awaiting the results of a postmortem on a pensioner who it was suspected died from hypothermia after he fell in a field on his way home in north Cork.

Donal O’Connell (81), from Milford, was reported missing on Monday. His car was found stuck in a field off a boreen yesterday and his body was discovered near by. Gardaí believe he may been trying to turn his car in a field when the vehicle got stuck.

The conditions have forced the continued closure of schools and the cancellation of a host of sporting and other events around the State.

The eastern side of the country is expected to bear the brunt of the inclement conditions today, with hail, sleet and snow showers forecast for east Leinster and east Munster. While it may not be as overcast in the rest of the country, there is still a chance of occasional flurries of snow.

Daytime temperatures across the country are expected to hover between -2 and 3 degrees.

Concerns have been expressed about the fate of homeless people in the sub-zero conditions. The Homeless Agency said rough sleeping was being strictly monitoring on a daily basis to ensure there was sufficient bed capacity in emergency homeless accommodation.

Full bus and train services continued to operate around Dublin yesterday but some diversions applied. Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann advised passengers to check their websites www.dublinbus.ie and www.irishrail.ie for updates.

AA Roadwatch said motorists were encountering black ice in Leinster last night and road conditions were treacherous in the northwest and in Monaghan, Cork and Clare.

More than 150 Civil Defence volunteers have been helping with the transportation of patients, nurses and health care workers in isolated areas. They have also been rescuing stranded motorists and helping local authorities set up emergency control centres and to deliver water and heaters to people in isolated areas.

Some employers, including hospitals, have offered overnight accommodation to staff who live in isolated areas and have difficulty getting to work. Several local authorities have encouraged consumers to conserve water and have warned that it may be necessary to restrict water supply for periods at night if water is not used sparingly.

Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers Association has criticised local authorities for refusing to supply grit to farmers who have offered to clear minor roads.

The association’s president, John Bryan, said farmers were facing particular difficulties with milk collections, feed deliveries and moving livestock to factories and marts.

Maintaining water supplies for livestock was a major problem in the freezing conditions, he said, and the heavy frost was affecting milking machines for dairy farmers.