No EU funds to cope with Ophelia aftermath; Thousands still without power

Tens of thousands of homes remain without electricity and power in the wake of Storm Ophelia as it emerged that Ireland will not qualify for any financial help from the EU to cope with the aftermath.

No EU funds to cope with Ophelia aftermath; Thousands still without power

Local authorities began the task of a massive clean operation yesterday after the storm, which left three people dead, wreaked havoc across the country.

Over 130,000 homes were without electricity last night and while most will be reconnected in the next three to four days, ESB Networks has indicated that those living in isolated areas could be waiting up to a week.

Irish Water expects that some 48,000 homes and businesses will be without water until later today but those living in remote areas also face a longer wait for supply to be restored.

At the peak of the outages, 385,000 homes and businesses were without power and 109,000 were without water.

Cork and Waterford were the worst affected counties but many customers in Wexford, Tipperary, Kerry and Kilkenny were also badly hit. Some 30 communities were relying on tankers for drinking water yesterday.

Trees falling and taking down powerline wires is the main cause of the breakages and some of those obstructions have yet to be cleared. The scale of the task was laid out at a briefing by the national emergency coordination group (NECG) last night.

They said in Cork, 430 roads had been cleared but 70 remained, while in Wexford, 131 roads had been blocked but 125 were cleared.

NECG chairman Sean Hogan, said there had been several “near misses” with frontline responders from the fire and telecoms services coming very close to live wires and he appealed for safety to remain number one in the public’s mind.

Despite estimates that the cost of the damage could reach between €500m and €800m, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was unlikely to be enough to qualify for access to the EU solidarity fund.

“The view is we almost certainly don’t reach the threshold of EU solidarity funding. There’s a particular cost of damage you have to reach before you qualify. I can’t remember if that’s 1% or 10% of GDP, but whether it’s the former or the latter it’s €2bn or €20bn and thankfully it [the price of the Ophelia damage] isn’t anywhere approaching that,” he said.

Asked if the Government has an indicative figure for the total costs involved at this stage, he said “we honestly don’t know yet” and that “over the coming weeks” officials will assess the full extent of the damage.

Speaking in Cork, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said that there was “nothing to date” to suggest that the damage caused by Storm Ophelia would require the need to apply for EU assistance.

“As we look back to recent events like Storm Darwin in 2014, it would seem at the moment that the actual impact on key infrastructure and local authority assets is less this time around than it was then even though this was a more severe storm.”

He said that local authorities would get “whatever resources they need” to deal with the cleanup operation.

The Government is to produce formal guidelines for employers on staff staying at home during future storm or emergency red alert days.

The Taoiseach also agreed to examine penalties to be applied to so-called thrill-seeking tourists, after a number of people ignored advice this week and entered waters during the hurricane.

“Not only did those people who disobeyed safety warnings put themselves at risk, but they also risked the lives of the emergency services,” said Mr Varadkar.

The issues were raised during Dáil leaders questions, where Mr Varadkar conceded the parliament should prepare to debate the impacts that must be faced by looming climate changes.

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