Govt urges people to help each other during big freeze

People must help each other through the big freeze as temperatures are set to plunge even further, it was warned today.

People must help each other through the big freeze as temperatures are set to plunge even further, it was warned today.

The Government’s emergency taskforce said there was only so much state agencies could do as forecasters predicted records will be shattered over the coming days.

Temperatures are expected to plummet as low as minus 13C in parts of the country, with no let-up in the snow and severe frost until at least next Wednesday.

Sean Hogan, director of the Government’s emergency taskforce, said it was impossible to avoid the transport disruption and it will continue for the rest of the week.

“We are appealing to people in the community to help each other,” he said.

“There is a certain amount the state services can do but it is only through helping each other in the community that people will get through this week ahead.

“It is going to be a tough week.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen appealed for people to look out for elderly neighbours, who could be among the worst-affected by the unusually early winter conditions.

“It’s important that we also look out for neighbours, particularly the elderly, and ensure that they’re looked after,” he said.

Property owners were also urged to clear snow from footpaths after Mr Cowen insisted they cannot be sued if someone falls.

Confusion around liability for accidents on pavements was blamed for people refusing to clear outside their homes and premises during last year’s severe weather.

Met Eireann forecaster Evelyn Cusack said temperatures could plunge lower than minus 10C tonight and tomorrow night as winds shifted from Arctic to Siberian.

There was a “high chance” of weather records bring broken in the coming days, she added.

More snow is expected in the run-up to the weekend, with bitterly cold temperatures expected to dip as low as minus 13C in Wicklow.

Ms Cusack said daytime temperatures were unlikely to rise high enough for a widespread thaw.

The cold snap continued to wreak havoc on the country’s transport system.

The main runway at Dublin Airport had to be shut overnight because of heavy snowfall and was later closed again in the afternoon until 7pm.

Flights were suspended as teams worked to clear the runway, taxiways and apron areas.

Dublin Bus said services were affected around the foothills of the Dublin Mountains and in some housing estates while Bus Eireann said there was no service running through Rosslare because of snowfall in Co Wexford.

Iarnrod Eireann said there were minor delays on some services but all routes were operating. Trains were being forced to cut speeds on a section of the railway between Rathdrum and Arklow because of heavy snowfall.

Spokesman Barry Kenny said while there was an increase in passengers using rail services, there has been no extra carriages put on.

AA Roadwatch warned fresh and compacted snow was a major problem, with conditions described as treacherous in many areas.

Sean O’Neill, of the National Roads Authority, said between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes of salt were being used on roads every day.

But he insisted there was enough stocks from 80,000 tonnes bought in July to last through the cold snap while another order was being placed in the coming weeks.

However, road chiefs are starting to ration stocks as they are being used at twice normal levels.

The Department of Education said it has no figures on how many schools have been forced to shut down around the country because of the conditions.

The Department of Health and Children said there has been a slight rise in the number of people attending accident and emergency departments with weather-related injuries.

All health services were operating as normal apart from postponements to some non-essential services, such as outpatient facilities, a spokesman said.

In Cork, soldiers in 4x4 vehicles and some using snow chains were transporting patients from Cork University hospital to Cobh. Nurses were being taken to work from isolated areas in parts of Galway and Cork.

Home help staff, community nurses and medicines were being transported to patients in remote hilly areas of Wexford and around Galway while troops were on standby to assist doctors on call in Wicklow.

Support was also being given to palliative care nurses and medicines to isolated patients attending Harolds Cross, St Francis, Mullingar and Drogheda hospices while soldiers were also helping deliver hot meals to the elderly in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, and Athlone.

The Health and Safety Authority urged all workers, and farmers in particular, not take unnecessary risks during the freezing conditions.

An Post said mail services would be significantly curtailed throughout the country for the rest of the week.

More in this section