#Ophelia aftermath: 137,000 without power, but Luas back tonight; Varadkar considering punishment for swimmers in storms

Update 9.59pm: Luas services resume

Luas services have resumed this evening, with Red and Green line services are up and running ahead of schedule

Following a test of the track and technical systems tonight a decision was made to re-open services.

48,000 homes have no water – down from the earlier figure of 66,000.

Update 8.58pm: Varadkar considering punishment for those swimming during storms

Sea swimmers who take to the waters during red storm alerts could potentially face fines in the future, the Taoiseach has warned.

Making such exploits a criminal offence "merits consideration", Leo Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar's comments came after a number of incidents during Storm Ophelia when people went swimming in the sea.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets ESB Network workers in Kilcock, as they clear fallen power lines. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The authorities had advised people to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary risks during Monday's violent winds.

"I think it is something that merits consideration," Mr Varadkar replied when asked about the potential of prosecuting rogue storm swimmers in the future.

"People who disobeyed the red alert and travel warnings yesterday didn't just put themselves at risk, they also put at risk the lives of other people - particularly our emergency services."

But he added: "I never rush into creating a new crime. It is something we would have to consider."

Mr Varadkar said he would like the issue to be examined on an all party basis in the Dail.

Update 8.35pm: 22,000 customers have power restored

A further 22,000 customers have had their power restored this evening, as ESB Networks go about restoring electricity to the remaining 137,000 homes with no power.

Estimated restoration times for those without power since yesterday’s Storm Ophelia will be available on the Powercheck app and powercheck.ie from tomorrow morning.

Extra crews from the North, Scotland, England and Wales are arriving this evening and will be deployed tomorrow.

Local fishermen look out from the Glen Pier, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, as Storm Ophelia made her arrival felt, whipping up the wild Atlantic seas. Picture: Stephen Kelleghan

Of the peak number of 385,000 customers who were without power, almost 65%, or 248,000, have been returned to full service.

It’s expected the majority of the remaining 137,000 customers, mainly in the south and southeast, will have their power restored within three to four days.

Update 7.25pm: 169,000 homes without power; 66,000 without water

About 169,000 customers remain without power after ESB Networks crews restored power to 216,000 homes. Updates on esbpowercheck.ie

Remaining customers will have their power restored within three or four days, ESB Netowrks have said, with the majority back on line before that.

Earlier today, almost a quarter of the country’s water plants were without supply. Currently, about 66,000 households are still without water.

Half of those should have their supply restored by tonight, with Waterford and Cork the worst affected counties.

Some treatment plants are unable to process waste water, with a possible environmental impact.

Jerry Grant from Irish Water said drinking water is the priority, but some households will not have their supply restored for a number of days.

"The water situation is totally dependent on the ESB," he said.

Meanwhile, Luas services will resume tomorrow at 5.30am.

Update 6.56pm: Castletownshend National School in West Cork will remain closed until further notice due to structural damage to the roof of the school.

Otherwise, Bus Éireann has confirmed that over 6,000 school transport services are expected to operate normally across the country – with the exception of the Ballyduff to Fermoy service, which will commence in Kilworth.

A council engineer has advised that the road will be impassable for large vehicles tomorrow due to fallen trees.

Cork County Council received approximately 761 incident calls during Storm Ophelia, primarily in relation to fallen trees.

Blockages on 29 regional roads have been removed, with six roads still closed: R627 Broomfield East, Midleton; R613 Ballea Road, Carrigaline; R597 Glandore; R612 Drakes Pool, Crosshaven; R590 Crookstown to Bandon; R605 Innishannon to Dunderrow; and R880 Western Road, Clonakilty.

Approximately 70 local roads around the county remain closed, with the Council confident “quite a number of these roads will open before nightfall this evening”.

Over 300 Council staff, 60 tree surgeons and 16 of 21 Fire Stations were involved in the clean-up.

Significant damage has occurred at Youghal which ESB Networks are working to restore. Generators are being installed this evening to assist with continuity of water supply in both Youghal and Cobh.

The Regional Park in Ballincollig is likely to be closed for at least a week in order to deal with 60 fallen trees, but Dursey Island cable car is expected to reopen tomorrow.

Youghal Pool will be closed indefinitely due to serious structural damage.

Update 5.40pm: ESB Networks have restored power to over 55% of homes

ESB Networks says 169,000 customers remain without electricity in the wake of Storm Ophelia, writes Stephen Barry.

Power has been restored to 216,000 customers, including 100,000 customers in Cork and Kerry, while the northwest and Dublin are expected to have full service restored this evening.

Serious damage remains in the south and southwest and the 169,000 customers without electricity will have their service fixed within three to four days, according to the ESB.

That means over 55% of the 385,000 customers who were without power during Storm Ophelia have had their power restored, with significant progress made in counties Kerry, Laois, Galway, Clare and Westmeath.

ESB Networks staff at Centre Park Road, Cork City, as 20 trees were felled. Picture: Larry Cummins

ESB Networks crews are prioritising repairs to higher voltage lines and essential services, such as water pumping and sewage facilities, medical facilities, telecommunications and customers with medical needs.

Crews from less impacted parts of the country are moving south to assist colleagues in the worst impacted areas, and will be assisted by crews from the North, Scotland, England and Wales, many of whom will travel over this evening.

An estimated 66,000 households remain without any water supply, down from a peak of 109,000, with Cork and Waterford worst affected.

Where customers were reliant on water storage, this number has decreased by 260,000 to just over 100,000 and their full supply has been restored.

150,000 eir customers remain without service.

Update 4.42pm: Services affected at social welfare offices across Cork

The Department of Social Protection has warned of curtailed services and closures across its Cork network of Intreo Centres and Social Welfare branch offices, writes Eoin English.

Power cuts and technical problems caused by Ophelia have resulted in restricted services at the Bandon, Fermoy, Mallow, Midleton, Skibbereen and Youghal branch offices and at the Cobh Intreo Centre.

The Clonakilty, Kinsale and Mallow branch offices are closed today.

Customers living in Bandon, Kinsale and Clonakilty have been advised to contact the Intreo Centre in Carrigaline on tel: 021-2386900, and customers of the Mallow Fair Green Intreo Centre should contact the Mallow branch office on tel: 022-30934.

The Department said is also aware that there is disruption to some post offices today and is in contact with An Post who are working to have these back in operation again as soon as possible.

"We would like to thank customers for their patience and co-operation. Updates will issue throughout the day on our website www.welfare.ie and on Twitter @welfare_ie," a spokesperson said.

Update 3.19pm: ESB report "very near misses"  and call for continued vigilance

A spokesman for the ESB has said there have been reports of a number of "very near misses" involving those working to restore supply almost making contact with live electrical wires.

He urged members of the public to remain vigilant and stay safe if they come across any fallen wires.

216,000 customers remain without power after ESB Networks crews restored power to 170,000 homes.

It is expected that the majority of customers will have their power restored in 3 to 4 days

Following reports some people had ignored the "danger to life" warnings issued, Sean Hogan, chairman of the national emergency coordination group said: "I deplore people who put lives of public sector workers at risk from some of their actions.

"I think they need to have a strong look at themselves."

Schools, which have taken a second day off, are expected to reopen on Wednesday although some may be unable to do so due to damage sustained, a spokeswoman for Ireland's education authority said.

Cork City Council workers begin the clean-up efforts yesterday following the sweeping effects of Storm Ophelia which downed this tree on South Mall. Picture: Daragh McSweeney

A clear-up operation is also under way in the North, where around 3,000 homes and businesses are still experiencing disrupted electricity supplies, with the worst affected parts across counties Down, Armagh and Antrim.

NIE warned that some customers may have to be taken off supply during the day to allow for repairs but power should be restored to the majority of customers by the end of the day.

The Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling said: "As people return to work there is a need for care, particularly in relation to large trees and electric lines.

"Contractors should also check all scaffolding to ensure it hasn't moved during the storm."

The civil contingencies group, which helped co-ordinate the response in the North, was stood down on Tuesday morning after updates from all those agencies involved in the clear-up.

Update - 1.08pm: Up to 80,000 households are without water after storm Ophelia, and that figure is rapidly rising.

While no significant structural damage was caused by the ex-hurricane, it will take days to assess all the harm.

Areas from Wexford right across to Skibbereen are affected, but Chief Executive of Irish Water Gerry Grant is hopeful they will restore power, and as a result water today.

He said: "We today have a very significant water deficit across the south of the country. The main areas affected are from Wexford across to Skibbereen.

"We are very hopeful that through the course of the afternoon, that between the restoration of power by ESB and the deployment of generators that we will be getting a significant proportion of those back in service by night time."

12.38pm: #Ophelia aftermath: ESB issues advice for customers as more than 215,000 without powerAround 216,000 electricity customers are without power after storm Ophelia yesterday.

At the height of the storm 385,000 customers were without power, but 170,000 have now had their power restored.

Customers without power can check for updates on when their fault is expected to be repaired at www.esbpowercheck.ie or on the PowerCheck App for iPhone and Android devices.

Fallen trees on overhead lines are responsible for most of the damage to the network.

Today, ESB Networks crews are prioritising repairs to higher voltage lines and focussing on restoring power to essential services such as water pumping and sewage facilities, medical facilities and customers with medical needs.

Crews from Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales will arrive this evening to help ESB crews with the restoration of power, while six helicopters, including a number from the Air Corps, are patrolling lines in the south, Midlands, west and north of the country.

Firefighters clearing a tree which fell and blocked the road near Cobh during storm Ophelia. Pic: Denis Minihane.

They have advised customers without power who have a medical condition or are reliant on an electrically powered medical device should contact their healthcare professional so that they can receive advice on care until power is restored.

      ESB Networks is reminding customers of the precautionary measures to take in the event of a power cut:

    • Never approach broken lines or damaged poles, and keep children and animals away – report damage to ESB Networks at 1850 372 999 and listen to recorded messages carefully;
    • Turn off electric cookers, ovens, irons, etc. if electricity supply is lost;
    • Leave a light switched on so you know when power has been restored;
    • Take extra care if using candles, oil lamps or other naked flames;
    • Test smoke alarms with fresh batteries;
    • Ensure adequate ventilation if using gas heaters.

The Defence Forces have deployed 25 Army and Air Corps personnel, along with two vehicles and two helicopters, to help in today's clear-up after storm Ophelia.

The Army sent 21 people and two vehicles from the 3rd Infantry Battalion to Kilkenny this morning, while two Air Corps EC 135 helicopters are flying over power lines in the Midlands and south-west to locate breakages.

Another 12 Defence Forces personnel and five vehicles were deployed yesterday to take HSE staff to their workplace in Kilkenny and to clear routes between Kenmare and Tralee.

9.35am: #Ophelia aftermath: Help called in from NI, UK and France as 245,000 without powerESB crews have begun clean up and repair operations across the network this morning.

245,000 people remain without power, with some expected to be without supply for up to 10 days.

Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten gave an update on the ESB operation.

He said: "They've already requested additional staff from Northern Ireland and from Britain and the request has also gone for staff to come from France.

"All available resources are being deployed at the moment, the Defence Forces are assisting with the provision of helicopters, along with private helicopters to go along the lines to identify where there are breakages.

"Defence Force personnel will also be assisting the ESB on the ground with the removal of trees."

ESB Networks staff at the scene of fallen trees on Centre Park Road, Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins

7.55am: 245,000 without power with some in for a 10-day wait for restorationUp to 245,000 people are still without power after the storm this morning.

The ESB says most will be back on the grid within three to four days, but some will remain without supply for up to 10 days.

Spokeswoman Bernadine Maloney claims crews will be drafted in from elsewhere to help.

She said: "We are prioritising electricity to infrastructure, such as water and communications.

"The northern part of the country hasn't been as badly affected and when the power is restored there, including Northern Ireland, we will have crews there to help with the restoration effort."

Earlier: Three people are dead and hundreds of thousands still without power following the worst storm in recorded history on the island of Ireland.

The storm force winds were expected to have cleared the coast by midnight, but people have been warned to remain cautious in the aftermath of the extreme weather.

Fallen trees blocking roads and downed power lines are some of the likely hazards on today as the country begins to return to normal following a day when the island of Ireland went into lockdown.

Violent winds of more than 156kph in places caused widespread damage to electricity networks, uprooting trees and damaging properties.

The National Emergency Coordination Group will reconvene this morning at 10am to collate and assess damage reports from across the country following Storm Ophelia.

They were working on getting reports from local authorities and state agencies since last night.

      They have issued four key public safety messages:

    • The ESB is advising the public to stay away from fallen cables that may have broken due to the high winds. ESB Emergency Services can be contacted at 1850372999. Updates on esbpowercheck.ie;
    • Road users should pay particular attention to the risk posed by fallen trees.
    • The Department of Education and Skills has instructed all schools to remain closed. Crèches and Montessori facilities should also remain closed today.
    • People are asked to check in on isolated and vulnerable neighbours.

Approximately 30,000 eir customers are without broadband, telephone and mobile services as result of Storm Ophelia.

The telecoms company says the ex-hurricane delivered unprecedented levels of damage to its infrastructure, with the Southwest and Midlands worst affected and in particular Co. Cork.

It is warning more outages will arise today as back-up batteries run out.

1,200 staff are working on getting the network back up and running today.

Two men and a woman were killed in separate incidents.

One man was killed in Ravensdale, Dundalk, when a car he was in was struck by a tree at around 2.45pm, gardaí said.

In Cahir, Co Tipperary, a man in his 30s was killed in a chainsaw accident when he was trying to clear a tree downed by the wind.

Earlier, a woman died when a tree fell on her car in severe wind.

The Gardaí said the driver was in her mid 50s and was travelling outside Aglish village in Co Waterford.

A female passenger, in her 70s, was injured and taken to Waterford Regional Hospital for treatment, gardai said. Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

Off the coast of Rosslare a volunteer lifeboat crew rescued three men on a yacht after they got into trouble in the storm.

The men had been trying to get to safety in a harbour but were constantly pushed back by wind and tides.

They issued a mayday 10 miles offshore and were rescued by the Rosslare Harbour lifeboat.

The storm has caused major disruption to power supplies and 330,000 homes and businesses were still without power on Monday night.

Help from Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is expected to be drafted in on Wednesday to help restore power, the ESB said.

Officials have warned that repairs will take several days. Some areas were also hit by shortages to water supplies.

There were reports of localised flooding in Co Galway, and storm surges and severe winds were still predicted to pose a threat on the Dublin and Louth coasts until late on Monday night.

A spokesman for the HSE said there had been a significant impact on health services, and warned of disruption in the "coming days" with some cancellations and delays expected to appointments and discharges from hospital.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said additional funding will be made available to assist in the clean-up, and work is under way to assess the damage.

"As is always the case in national emergencies like this, full resources and additional funding will be available," he said.

More than 18,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Northern Ireland at 5pm on Monday.

Earlier in the day the storm forced former US president Bill Clinton to postpone a planned intervention in Northern Ireland's political stalemate.

It is understood Mr Clinton had been due to meet the North's warring political parties as they struggle to reach a deal to restore the collapsed Executive.

But the visit was called off at late notice due to the severe weather. It is understood the visit may still take place on Tuesday.

With the full extent of the storm damage still unknown, authorities in the Republic and Northern Ireland have said schools should remain closed for a second day to ensure the safety of children and staff.

Met Eireann described the storm as the most powerful to have been this far east in the Atlantic.

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