Two men drowned in weekend of storms


THE weekend storms led to two drownings, with widespread flood damage and transport disruption.

There is no immediate respite in sight. The Meteorological Service expects the weather to remain unsettled until midweek, with the likelihood of more heavy rain and high winds.

In Bray, Co Wicklow, a 69 year old man was swept into the sea by a wave from the pier as he was walking at about midday yesterday. A couple and a child threw him life jackets and called for help.

Two ambulance men from Bray Fire Brigade joined in the rescue attempt, but all five were trapped by waves in a gully and had to abandon their efforts to revive him. The man's body was later recovered. He was named as Mr Ed Smith of Putland Street, Bray.

Another man was drowned in Dublin Bay last night when he fell overboard from the pilot cutter Tolka at about 7 p.m. Weather conditions were not severe at the time. His body was recovered later night. He has not yet been named.

Two car ferries, the Stena Cambria and the Stena Traveller, took part in an attempt to rescue him. Dun Laoghaire and Howth life boats and an Air Corps helicopter were also called out.

The man was nut wearing a life jacket but was dressed in a "floater", a coat with buoyancy built into it. The incident happened one mile south of the Burford Buoy, a familiar marking at the entrance to the bay, near the Burford Bank.

Last night's weather conditions were not as severe as Saturday's, when an Air Corps helicopter flew two night time rescue missions over Dublin Bay during gales.

The Dauphin helicopter's first mission was in support of the Dun Laoghaire lifeboat, which removed a sick crew member from a Greek cargo ship on Saturday evening.

Later the helicopter flew again after a windsurfer was reported missing of Malahide in north Co Dublin. However, the man was able to get ashore safely.

A night time rescue service, which had not been part of the State's rescue services plan, became available after a Wexford fisherman was drowned only a few yards off Howth Harbour in November and an RAE rescue helicopter had to be called from Wales.

Almost 1 1/2 inches of rain was recorded at the meteorological station in Valentia up to midnight on Saturday. In Kilkenny there was one inch and in Dublin half an inch.

Flooding was worst in the south east where three rivers - the Nore, Suir and Blackwater - broke their banks. Clonmel in Tipperary was worst hit, with flooding persisting up to yesterday in many homes and businesses.

Wexford and Waterford were also badly affected and the AA was last night warning motorists not to attempt using the road between the two towns. There was extensive flooding around Fermoy, Co Cork.

Floods on most roads had receded last night, but thousands of acres of land remained under water, leading to fears for farm animals if there is further heavy rain this week.

High winds were experienced in Ball areas, but the Meteorological Service said no records were broken. Gusts of just over 80 mph, were recorded at Malin Head in Donegal.

The wind brought down some electricity cables, but these were quickly restored by ESB emergency crews which were one standby.

Train services on the east coast were affected when the sea undermined the tracks at Newcastle, Co Wicklow, and heavy earth moving equipment was used to restore services to Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Passengers had to be taken by bus to Wexford town and Rosslare as trains could not get to Wexford because the wooden works on the quays in the town had been damaged.

There was two feet of water in parts of the town and traders on the seafront had to sandbag their premises. Last night Irish Rail reported that services to Rosslare had been restored.

Last night's Cork Swansea ferry sailing was cancelled. Ferry services between Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead and between Rosslare and Fishguard had to be rescheduled and passengers were asked to contact the ferry companies for new departure times.

The South Tipperary TD, Ms Therese Ahearn, said the area around Clonmel and Carrick on Suir should be declared a flood disaster region. This was the second major flooding disaster it had suffered within a year.