Douglas Community School principal: ‘If the roof had struck somebody, they would have had no chance’

A school principal has spoken of his relief that nobody was killed or injured when the roof was ripped off its gym before slamming into nearby homes.

Principal Jim Long in the sports hall at Douglas Community School which had its roof blown off. Picture: Dan Linehan

Jim Long, the principal of Douglas Community School on the southside of Cork city, was speaking yesterday as he began to fully assess the scale of the damage caused by the hurricane-force winds.

“If it had struck somebody, they would have had no chance,” Mr Long said.

“The winds were absolutely ferocious here at midday on Monday.

“When you consider the ferocity of the wind, the fact that the roof was ripped off, that part of it smashed through a brick wall, and that it struck nobody, we’re just so relieved.

“We can mend the roof and tidy the mess. We are just thankful that nobody was injured, or worse.”

It was one of the most dramatic moments captured on film during Monday’s unprecedented weather event.

Video footage recorded by neighbour Aveen Boyce showed the moment the roof was ripped from the sports hall, upgraded 13 years ago, and sent flying towards neighbouring houses. Her clip has been viewed millions of time around the world.

Mr Long, who was on the school campus at the time, said a 40ft section of the roof landed in the conservatory of a neighbouring house, another piece smashed through a brick wall and several fences, and another section crushed a shed.

“It was a frightening scenario at midday. Nothing was safe or secure,” he said.

Live power lines were also brought down directly outside the school.

While ESB crews dealt with the wires, Mr Long spent most of Monday evening and yesterday speaking to affected neighbours.

“I have met with them all to discuss the next steps. It is our intention to fully restore their properties,” he said.

Demolition experts were also on site yesterday to begin the clean-up.

Mr Long said he is waiting for an inspection of the sports hall floor, which suffered extensive water damage, before making a decision on when to reopen the school.

“I have spoken to the Department of Education’s building unit, and they have been very helpful. I would be confident that we will get support in due course,” he said.

Meanwhile, a massive clean-up operation was well under way across the city as regular public services resumed at City Hall.

Damage to the roof of a house on Victoria Terrace caused by a flying roof from a derelict house at St. Lukes, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Eoghan Murphy, the minister for housing, planning and local government, met with members of the emergency management group for Cork and Kerry at the city’s Anglesea St fire station, where he was briefed by the chief executives of both Cork city and county councils, Garda chief superintendents Con Cadogan and Barry McPolin, and Supt Colm O’Sullivan, as well as representatives from the ESB and Bord Gáis.

He later visited some of the worst affected areas, including Centre Park Rd where a massive operation is under way to clear 30 fallen trees.

The city council’s freephone helpline fielded more than 300 calls on Monday, and dealt with reports of up to 150 fallen trees citywide, including in Fitzgerald Park, in Bishop Lucey Park and around the Lough amenity.

The council deployed more than 300 personnel drawn from various departments, at daybreak yesterday, and backed by contractors, they had all the city’s main roads cleared of trees shortly after 9am before focusing on clearing secondary routes of trees, and then clearing storm debris. Parks and green areas were tackled later.

The council said it was assessing possible structural damage to public buildings.

“Cork City Council is doing all possible to ensure that it is business as normal as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said. “We would also ask the public to exercise caution in case of fallen trees, storm debris and possible structural damage and to bear with us over the coming days as we continue to deal with fallout.”

ESB crews were working to restore power to pockets of the city, which affected several traffic lights, and water supply to certain areas.

Damage to the roof of St. Lukes Church, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

The Department of Social Protection warned of curtailed services and closures across its Cork network of Intreo Centres and Social Welfare branch offices.

Power cuts and technical problems caused by Ophelia resulted in restricted services at the Bandon, Fermoy, Mallow, Midleton, Skibbereen and Youghal branch offices and at the Cobh Intreo Centre. The Clonakilty, Kinsale and Mallow branch offices were closed.

Meanwhile, a motorist escaped serious injury when a car hit a fallen tree in East Cork yesterday morning.

The incident happened between 7am and 8am on the Two Mile Inn to Mogeely Road, north of Castlemartyr.

The road was initially closed, before a stop/go system was put in place after the crash was cleared.

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