Two die in storms as emergency crews drafted in


Emergency ESB crews were yesterday drafted in to help re store power to tens of thousands of homes in the south-west battered by near hurricane winds which claimed two lives over the Christmas holiday.

Damian Fogarty (19) from Waterville, Co Kerry, died when a wall collapsed on him and his brother Patrick (18) as they tried to fasten down a door which was being blown off a store near the family grocery shop in the seaside village.

The two men were brought to Tralee General Hospital but Damian was pronounced dead on arrival. Patrick was yesterday described as being in "a comfortable condition".

Gardai in Cork yesterday praised a man who suffered a suspected heart attack and died as he was trying to cut away the branches of a tree trapping a family of four in their car.

Mr Joe Ryan (56) from Dean wood Avenue, Togher, was one of the first on the scene when a pine fell on the Volkswagen car of the Blythe family from Green Lawn, Cork, as they drove along Togher Road at around 2.15 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

"Mr Ryan was one of the first on the scene and he started trying to cut away the tree with a handsaw. He did his utmost to save this family - it's tragic that he should die in this manner," said a Garda spokesman.

Angus and Donna Blythe and their children, Megan (13) and Dominic (11) were trapped in the car for more than an hour as rescuers brought in a crane to lift off the pine tree to allow fire crews in with cutting equipment to free them.

Mr Blythe suffered some rib injuries but was yesterday described as being in a comfortable condition at Cork University Hospital. The remaining members of the family were treated for shock before being discharged.

"It really was a miracle that they weren't killed or seriously hurt. The car was totally destroyed and it was pretty scary stuff as they waited for the crane with the tree crushing down on the car," said a Garda spokesman.

Shoppers in Cashs department store in Cork had a lucky escape on Christmas Eve when the high winds, which reached more than 60 m.p.h. gusting to more than 80 m.p.h., sent scaffolding smashing through a glass roof. No one was injured in the incident.

Gardai closed off several city centre streets as the high winds dislodged slates and sent them and other debris flying while fallen trees forced the closure of several roads around the city.

West and north Cork were particularly badly hit by the high winds, with up to 50,000 homes losing electricity on Christmas Eve as falling trees and broken poles brought power lines down.

ESB crews worked into the night and were out at first light on Christmas Day to restore power. Yesterday, the ESB drafted in emergency crews from as far away as Donegal and Sligo to help re store power in Cork and Kerry.

Some 7,000 homes in west Cork were still without power yesterday evening while many were also without telephones.

In the Bandon area alone, repair crews counted more than 100 telephone poles snapped by the high winds.

According to ESB spokesman Mr Michael Kelly, the Christmas storms were the worst to hit Ireland since 1974. At one point, an estimated 150,000 homes were without electricity but by yesterday repair crews had reduced this to 72,000 homes.

"We've had crews on the road since 7.05 this morning and they are going to be putting all their resources into resolving this problem. However, it's possible substantial numbers of people will be still without supply tonight," he said.

The high winds also led to many Christmas Eve flights into Cork Airport being diverted to Shannon but many passengers found themselves stranded there for several hours as fallen trees caused road closures in Co Clare.

Many roads into Limerick city had to be closed i because of fallen trees while a number of motorists had a narrow escape when the spire on the city's cathedral was ripped off by high winds.