Storm kills 3, cuts power to 330,000 in Ireland

DUBLIN • The Irish authorities have begun to clean up and count the cost of the worst storm to hit the country in more than 50 years, after the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia left a trail of destruction.

The "unprecedented storm" left three people dead - two of them from falling trees and the third in an accident - and over 300,000 customers without power.

It also shut down schools and government offices. Damage from Ophelia could reach US$1.8 billion (S$2.5 billion), Mr Chuck Watson, a disaster modeller, said.

Ophelia, the largest hurricane recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest north since 1939, was downgraded to a storm before it hit the Irish coast, but nonetheless wrought havoc.

"Stay indoors wherever you are until the storm has passed," Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Monday. "I don't want anyone to think that this is anything other than a national emergency and a red alert."

The eye of the storm was forecast to track across Northern Ireland, then Scotland. Though it will weaken as it goes, gusts are still expected to reach 129kmh in Britain.

The British Met Office issued amber severe weather warnings for Northern Ireland, Wales and southern Scotland, saying power cuts, transport disruption, flying debris and large waves were likely.

Winds reached 191kmh at Fastnet Rock, Ireland's southern-most point, while the strongest winds onshore were 156kmh at the entrance to Cork Harbour in the south-west. Seventeen millimetres of rain fell at Valentia on the south-west coast, including 9mm in one hour.

The Electricity Supply Board said 330,000 customers were without power, due to more than 3,200 individual faults on the network.

Power cuts also affected 18,000 customers in Northern Ireland, after power lines and poles came down due to strong winds and flying debris, supplier NIE Networks said.

Ireland's Dublin Airport scrapped 180 flights while Cork Airport cancelled most flights in what it said was the worst storm in its 56-year history. And several services to and from Shannon, the third-biggest airport, were also grounded.

Across the border in Northern Ireland, Belfast airport saw extensive delays and cancellations.

Ophelia came 30 years to the day after the Great Storm, which ravaged southern England on Oct 16, 1987, killing 18 people.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Storm kills 3, cuts power to 330,000 in Ireland'. Print Edition | Subscribe