‘Passengers were 35 seconds from disaster’

Dozens of rail passengers cheated death by seconds when a mini-tornado destroyed a huge section of the railway station roof just seconds after a loaded train pulled out.

One woman was injured when a 400m section of roof over platform 1 and 2 at Cork’s Kent Station — a busy commuter rail platform serving Cobh and Midleton — collapsed during high winds just after 3pm.

The 3pm Cobh train, with up to 50 people on board, had pulled away just seconds before. One witness said three people on the platform fled in terror as the structure came down.

Train driver Ian Fuller said it was a miracle that no one was seriously injured. “I have never seen anything like it. The Cobh train had just left and it was exactly 35 seconds after that when the wind picked up and all of a sudden huge chunks of the roof were in the air. A big piece lifted off and smashed off the wall next to our canteen, but luckily it didn’t come through the window.”

The 80-year-old, steel-post-supported timber roof was destroyed. Most of it collapsed on to the roof of an unoccupied train and two carriages which were parked in a siding alongside platform 1.

Large chunks of debris were blown across the car park, causing extensive damage to several vehicles.

Eight units of Cork City Fire brigade, and three ambulances rushed to the scene. Emergency services believe the injured woman, who is in her 20s, was struck by a large chunk of debris as she stood in the car park. Two other people were treated at the scene for shock.

Third officer with Cork City Fire Brigade, Edward Buckley, said emergency services were thankful the incident didn’t happen during peak commuter hours.

“If this had happened later, at about 5pm or 6pm, we would have had an entirely different situation,” he said.

Tamas Liszkai, who works in a garage across the road, saw the drama unfold. “I saw the wind, like a tornado, and heard crashing. The first part ripped off and was blown towards the main entrance. A bus was picking people up at the entrance and I though it was going to crash in to them. And a few seconds later, the entire roof was destroyed. I saw pieces flying everywhere — it was like a huge explosion. I thought more people might be injured.”

The station was closed for several hours causing severe disruption to commuter and inter-city rail services, with bus transfers in operation.

Last night, the rail company partially re-opened the station with the 6pm, 7pm and 9pm services from Dublin Heuston able to bring passengers right into the city. However, passengers travelling from Cork to Dublin had to be bused to Mallow and services to Cobh and Midleton were suspended with passengers forced to get buses.

However, Irish Rail hopes to operate a full service from Kent Station today, albeit with the possibility of minor delays.

In Mullingar, Co Westmeath, a woman died after the car in which she was travelling was struck by a falling tree. In Kilmallock, Co Limerick, the roof was blown off a commercial building, injuring three people.

There was also flooding in the West. ESB said nationally its staff had to deal with power outages in more than 15,000 homes and businesses following extensive damage to its network.

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