Dublin contending with weeks of water restrictions

Impact keenly felt with hospital overcrowding, flooding and loss of livestock

Army Private Patrick Macken clears snow to open up a path to Thomas Jones’s farm in Blessington, Wicklow. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Army Private Patrick Macken clears snow to open up a path to Thomas Jones’s farm in Blessington, Wicklow. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

 

The fallout from Storm Emma will affect water supplies, health services, farmers, businesses and householders into next week and beyond, authorities have warned.

While chairman of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group Sean Hogan said – following a meeting of the group on Monday – that “much of the country is now back up and running”, thousands of local authority and emergency staff continue a clean-up following the worst snowfall in more than 30 years.

Restrictions on water supply were put in place across the Dublin region and neighbouring counties from 7pm Monday night until 7am Tuesday morning in order to reduce pressure on reservoirs.

Irish Water warned it would be reducing water pressure overnight “for the foreseeable future” in the capital.

A large number of leaks caused by the extreme weather, as well as increased usage across the system, has put the network under strain. Daily demand is running at 60 million litres above normal.

Restrictions will be worse for households on higher ground, or on the edges of the supply network. Dublin, Carrickmines and Balbriggan are under significant supply pressure, said the water utility.

It advised people to check for any leaking pipes in their homes, to limit the duration of showers and to minimise flushing the toilet where possible.

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There is fear that thawing snow may lead to localised flooding and the authorities have urged people to stay away from the coastal areas of Dublin and Wicklow between 2pm and 4pm, until high tide passes.

The Office of Public Works has also advised local authorities to monitor sea levels for potential flooding.

Hospital overcrowding

Separately, overcrowding in hospitals surged to near record levels on Monday after what the Health Service Executive said had been a 41 per cent reduction in attendances at emergency departments in recent days due to the storm and snowfall.

Following a meeting of its national crisis management team, the HSE said the ambulance service had received 1,070 emergency calls in the previous 24 hours alone.

It said 507 people were waiting for admission to hospital by its calculations, while nurses said there were 664 patients on trolleys or on wards awaiting admission. The figure is just short of record levels of overcrowding experienced at the start of the year.

Hospital outpatient appointments and day surgeries will resume from today, apart from in Co Waterford, where the snow and road conditions are still causing significant problems.

Farmers in many areas, including in the southeast in parts of Kildare, are continuing to struggle with heavy snow, which is making access to livestock difficult.

Irish Farmers’ Association president Joe Healy on Monday visited farms in the southeast, which were particularly badly hit.

“This storm came at the worst possible time with calving and lambing in full swing,” Mr Healy said.

Fodder supplies

Farmers were facing very severe damage to their farms and buildings as well as losses of stock, and the weather would also have a negative impact on grass growth and put pressure on already tight fodder supplies. Sheep stranded on mountains and hills were a particular worry, added Mr Healy.

Many growers in the soft fruit and nursery stock sectors have also been very badly hit, as tunnels and glass houses collapsed in the snow, destroying plants.

Met Éireann said Wicklow got the largest accumulated snowfall during the storm, according to its initial measurements.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on flood relief Eugene Murphy called on the Government to ensure all necessary resources were allocated to deal with the flooding expected as the snow continues to thaw.