Statement from National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG) – Wednesday 7 March
The NECG met again this morning to review the evolving severe weather situation and was joined by Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D.
The Group received an update on weather conditions from Met Éireann and heard that there are no national weather warnings in place at this time. The current forecast is for rain to move up over the country on Friday evening and into Saturday. This rain, combined with melting snow, may cause some problems locally.
Local Government Sector
Overall, the situation across the country continues to improve with a gradual thaw well advanced in most areas. There has been continued significant and marked improvement in road conditions in all counties over the last 24 hours. Local Authority Crisis Management Teams have now been stood down in the majority of counties reflecting the improved conditions. However conditions remain very difficult in North Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford and South Dublin and the advice to the public to be extremely careful when using the roads remains in place.
Countrywide, the impact on water supply remains one of the big issues to be managed in the days and weeks ahead. Irish Water is managing the water supply deficit in the Greater Dublin Area by reducing pressure in their distribution systems from 20:00hrs to 06:00hrs until reservoir levels begin to return to normal. Reservoirs are expected to refill over an extended time-scale as repairs to bursts and leaks begin to reduce demand to more normal levels. Local authority crews and specialist leak detection units have been mobilised across Dublin. While there has been some recovery, there remains a long way to go but the pressure reductions are having a good effect. Demand is down and storage has increased. As of Wednesday morning, 7 March, just over 15,000 people are without water, 29,000 people have restricted supply due low levels in reservoirs and some 14,500 people are on boil water notices, mainly in Enniscorthy.
Due to hydrocarbon contamination of the source supplying the Fethard Public Water Supply, Irish Water and Tipperary County Council, in consultation with the HSE, have issued a “Do Not Drink” notice for customers supplied by this scheme affecting 12,000 people (this number is included in the ‘without water’ category above). Irish Water is working with Tipperary County Council to resolve the issue but the notice is expected to stay in place for a few days. Irish Water is providing water tankers to assist customers in these areas.
There are no issues to report regarding electricity supply. By close of business Monday, 5 March, ESB Networks had restored power to all customers. Approximately 205,000 ESB Networks customers lost supply at some stage during the severe weather however service was promptly restored in most cases. ESB Networks deployed 1,500 network technicians, along with 1,000 management, supervisory, safety and admin staff over the course of the severe weather event.
Health services were significantly disrupted due to the bad weather. However, there have been considerable efforts taken towards getting back to a state of normality.
All outpatient departments are now open for services including Wexford which was closed earlier in the week due to the snow. Most Day Case facilities are providing services. A small number have suspended services in order to allow an over-flow for extremely busy Emergency Department services, which is in line with agreed escalation processes. Only urgent inpatient elective (including cancer cases) are proceeding this week. All cases are selected based on clinical prioritisation. This situation is being reviewed on a daily basis.
The HSE had a backlog of approximately 40,000 home-help calls to deal with at the start of the week. HSE Social Care has worked through these over the week and has managed to deal with most of them. There are a small number of areas outstanding due to access difficulty such as in Wicklow, Kildare and Wexford. It is hoped to deal with those once routes become clear.
The National Ambulance Service (NAS) dealt with approximately 800 to 1,000 calls over the emergency period; this number is now returning to normality. The NAS continues to provide a service transferring delayed discharge patients to alternative more appropriate settings.
With regard to the transport network, all motorways and national roads are open, and no issues are reported. In addition, all public transport services are operating with a small number of diversions or curtailments. Irish Rail services are operating on all routes however the line from Gorey to Arklow is closed due to a landslide at Arklow. The line will be closed for the remainder of the week at least, with bus transfers in operation.
The OPW is continuing to monitor river levels, and is advising Local Authorities to do the same and to be ready to respond, particularly as quick increases in river levels are possible over the next couple of days (especially taking into account the forecast for rain / melting snow on Friday and Saturday). The OPWs advisory remains in place to be cautious around rivers / waterways.
An Garda Síochána
With road clearing works ongoing in many parts, An Garda Síochána continues to urge caution to members of the public regarding roads and footpath that may not yet be cleared of snow and ice. It also urges people to contact and check on people in isolated areas and on their elderly neighbours. People should be mindful of their personal safety when checking and assessing their premises and property. An Garda Síochána would like to thank the public for their assistance and forbearance during the difficult event and appreciate that for some this situation is still ongoing.
Worker Health and Safety
Following the melting of the snow from the roofs of farm sheds and other workplace buildings, farmers and workers will need to access roofs to check for damage and leaks. The Health and Safety Authority is advising that workers must only access roof spaces with caution and follow these safety precautions:
- Repairs to roofs must only be done by competent roof repair specialists;
- Plan and organise the roof repair work before carrying out the repairs;
- Ensure the correct working at height equipment is used;
- Ensure the risks from fragile roof surfaces are properly controlled e.g. on translucent sheeting and asbestos tiled roofs;
- Do not use ladders for roof repair work;
- Only use ladders as a means of access to the roof.
Every arm of Government, all Departments and Agencies in the different sectors, have been actively managing issues within their remit related to this severe weather, and will continue to do so as required.
As is now established practice after such severe weather events, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has signalled the Government’s intention to fund local authorities for the exceptional and unbudgeted costs incurred in necessary immediate works associated with significant severe weather emergency events.
Additionally, each Department is being requested to quantify, in so far as this is possible at this stage, the estimates for loss and damage incurred within their sector. Departments will liaise directly with the local authorities and other relevant agencies in relation to funding necessary repairs and restoration through current or capital allocations as appropriate.
In relation to damage to buildings and property which has been caused by the snow and wind, people should in the first instance get in touch with their insurance companies.
There are a number of existing emergency humanitarian support schemes that are operated by different Departments for sectors who may be impacted by flooding arising from severe weather. These include the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme operated by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which is available to assist people whose homes are damaged by flooding and who are not in a position to meet costs for essential needs, household items and in some instances structural repair. The scheme is means tested and assistance is not provided for losses which are covered by insurance or for commercial and business losses. The Irish Red Cross also operate a Humanitarian Support Scheme for small businesses and community, voluntary and sporting bodies who are affected by flooding and who do not have insurance in place. The Department of Agriculture has been working constructively with industry and state services in the immediate aftermath of the severe weather event to get the farming sector up and running and fully operational again as quickly as possible. In order to provide ongoing support to the sector the Department runs a number of investment schemes which are already in place.
The NECG does not intend to meet again however, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, in its role as the Lead Government Department for the response to severe weather, will continue to monitor developments.