Several councillors said officials need to conduct an urgent damage assessment of surviving trees, and then review the city’s policy on what it allows to be planted and where, and how those trees are managed.
The calls came during a special meeting of Cork City Council last night during which the full impact of Ophelia’s hurricane-force winds was laid bare. A report to councillors showed:
- At least 500 trees were knocked — the figure is expected to rise to close to 600;
- 114 calls about fallen trees and parks issues were logged during the storm — a further 235 calls have come in since;
- Over 300 reports of damage to council homes;
- Four families had to avail of homeless services;
- The city fire brigade attended 48 incidents, including structural failings, lose hoardings, debris and wind damage during the storm;
- The council is still liaising with building owners after receiving 38 separate reports of structural damage.
It will take four to six weeks for all knocked trees to be cleared and the cost of the storm clean-up is expected to run into millions.
The city’s head of finance, John Hallihan, said a formal application for funding will be made in due course.
Earlier, acting chief executive Ruth Buckley briefed councillors on the council’s response before, during, and after Storm Ophelia. She said emergency management planning began on the Friday before Monday’s storm, and that a meeting of its crisis management team, involving gardaí and the HSE, was convened at 2.30pm on Sunday. A crisis management office was set up at 7am on Monday . The office was stood down at 7pm as the focus switched to assessment and recovery.
“People went above and beyond the call of duty,” said councillor Fergal Dennehy. “People knew what they were doing, and how they were going to do it. There was no loss of life and no serious injury.”
Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald agreed to his suggestion that a civic reception be held for the staff who manned the crisis management office.
Fiann Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn said the city needs to re-examine its tree policy.
“We need to look at what we are allowing be planted by ourselves and by builders and developer,” he said. “We have trees in the city that are totally unsuitable for city living. We have gigantic oaks next to houses.”
Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer said while trees are important for the environment, the city must, in the wake of Ophelia, debate their place in the public realm.
Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent and Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said the Travelling community, at Spring Lane and Carrigrohane Road halting sites in particular, had been hit disproportionately.
Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan said those who were charged with the “defence of Cork” dealt with the situation in a “cool, consistent and calm” manner.
Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon praised local media and radio stations for regular updates, and for providing comfort for people who stayed home.
Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh said the council’s communications plan was implemented with military precision.
“It’s why we came out of this so well,” he said. “There is nothing we can do about falling trees or power cuts. But we can prevent injuries.”