Company defends handling of evacuationfrom Corrib gas tunnel

Fire service called almost two hours later

Shell E&P Ireland has defended its contractors' handling of an emergency evacuation last week from the Corrib gas tunnel which is under construction in north Mayo.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred when an alarm was activated, indicating a presence of gas. However, the local fire service was not notified for another 106 minutes. Its staff undertook a safety inspection of the tunnel with Shell contractors and confirmed it was safe to enter.

Shell E&P Ireland said in response to queries that the incident took place at about 5.45pm on Monday January 27th. Tunnelling work on the last section of the Corrib gas pipeline was immediately suspended, as is “normal procedure” when an alarm sounds.

It said six people were in the tunnel at the time and were evacuated “as a precautionary measure”.


Mayo Fire Service has confirmed that it did not receive a call until 7.31pm. It cleared the site as safe shortly after midnight and said no gas was detected.

The train transporting staff 2.7km into the work site could not be used, due to the potential risks of a spark.

Emergency service sources have questioned why there was no earlier call-out, given the fact that a man died in a machinery-related incident in the tunnel last year.

Shell E&P Ireland said a “planned re-entry of the tunnel using breathing apparatus to investigate the cause of the safety alarm was scheduled for Monday evening, January 27th. Before going back into the tunnel, a call was placed to the Fire Service, requesting their attendance at the Aughoose site as a precautionary measure, to provide support to the tunnel-inspection team.”

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

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