700 pupils and staff evacuated from Clare school amid gas leak fear

700 pupils and staff evacuated from Clare school amid gas leak fear
Children returning to the school following this morning's precautionary evacuation. Photo: Patrick Flynn

Patrick Flynn

Over 700 children and staff were evacuated from a school in Co Clare this morning following a feared gas leak in the area.

The alarm was raised shortly before 9am as students were lining up to enter their classes at Ennis CBS primary school on New Road in the town.

The school’s principal was alerted at around 8.55am by parents dropping their children to school and by gardaí. The alarm was immediately raised by school management.

Two units of the fire brigade from nearby Ennis station responded to the scene along with Gardaí. On arrival, emergency services found that an evacuation of the school had been fully completed.

Gardaí closed New Road to traffic while fire crews carried out an investigation of the area. Using gas detectors, firefighters took readings but found no evidence of gas.

Ennis CBS primary school principal Dara Glynn said: “The school followed its emergency evacuation procedures where the children, who were already outside as school had not yet started, lined up in their class lines and were accompanied off site by their class teachers and other staff. We have three fire drills per year and were generally well prepared for such an event.”

Pupils were taken initially by their teachers to designated assembly points on the school grounds and then moved off site to a specific area of the Fair Green recreational area across the road.

While the school is not on the gas network there is a gas pipe of the area. Mr Glynn confirmed the evacuation was precautionary.

A Clare County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Two units from Ennis fire brigade were dispatched to the site of the suspected gas leak on the New Road in Ennis. There is no gas installation in the school and no readings of gas were detected. The crews were stood down at 10.25am and the scene was handed over to Gas Networks Ireland.”

A spokeswoman for Gas Networks Ireland said: “We can confirm that there were no readings of natural gas or damage to our pipelines in the area.”

One theory is that the pungent odour may have come from a passing lorry. A smell lingered in the air for a time but was later confirmed not to be gas.

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