The worst of the blizzard conditions have now passed, but heavy drifts of snow continue to leave conditions across the country hazardous.
By Elaine Loughlin and Evelyn Ring
The public has been warned of flooding across many areas as the thaw after Storm Emma begins.
The Taoiseach said recovering from the impacts of the storm, which caused blizzards, power outages, and coastal flooding, will be a “considerable challenge” in the days ahead and urged people to remain cautious.
Speaking after a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group, Leo Varadkar said 230 snow ploughs were working to clear roads, along with 293 specialist gritters, which had spread 6,000 tonnes of grit.
These efforts, which were focused on clearing main routes as well as access to food and fuel depots, will continue over the weekend.
Mr Varadkar said: “We are now looking towards the recovery phase. This will be a considerable challenge and is likely to take a few days.”
He said the full resources of the State had been deployed to get the country “moving safely again”.
“Our particular focus is on transport infrastructure. We need the roads back in a safe condition for people to use. Many roads are still unpassable and work is being done on clearing the snow and ice.
Inspecting line between Athlone and Roscommon on the Dublin to Westport/Ballina - John is standing on the rail! #BeastFromTheEast pic.twitter.com/q1iDMcUcNF— Iarnród Éireann (@IrishRail) March 2, 2018
“Snow is going to continue to fall and then of course after that, we are into the thaw period and depending on how the snow thaws, there is a risk of flooding,” said the Taoiseach.
Paying tribute to those working through the storm, Mr Varadkar said: “The emergency services have been working around the clock to ensure the safety of our people. An Garda Síochána has responded to hundreds of stranded cars and the ambulance and fire service responded to hundreds of emergencies throughout the night. Our defence forces responded to 81 individual requests and are on stand-by today and over the weekend. The coast guard has assisted over 400 people.”
It was “heartening” to see the “great community spirit” across the country, he said, as people made sure elderly and vulnerable neighbours were looked after.
Irish Rail hoped to run a number of test trains this evening to ensure no lines have been damaged and that it will be safe to resume services tomorrow. However, the south Dart line experienced significant flooding and it is unlikely to run in the morning.
It is also hoped that Bus Éireann will be able to operate some services tomorrow.
Chair of the National Emergency Coordination Group Seán Hogan said drifting snow will continue to pose particular problems, with some houses and communities expected to be inaccessible for some days.
The HSE’s national director for emergency management said it will be hard to keep health services staffed in the coming days.
Damien McCallion said: “At the moment, we feel reasonably comfortable, but we are still under pressure. Transport is a big issue. It is going to be difficult over the next few days to keep services staffed.
We are having difficulty getting
(a) staff in and out and
(b) patients out
due to bad weather and roads.
If you are available to help us today or the weekend, and if you have a 4x4 vehicle .... we would be absolutely delighted with the support.
Please contact us on 087-1954839 pic.twitter.com/oF9A4jZzRh— Cork University Hosp (@CUH_Cork) March 2, 2018
“The ambulance service is getting about 1,000 calls a day, which is the normal call volume that we would expect so there has been no drop-off.
“We are asking people to be patient and to keep in touch with the National Emergency Operations Centre if they have any concerns,” he said.
General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Phil Ní Sheaghdha said some nurses were going to work even when not rostered as their colleagues could not travel.