It was downgraded from a hurricane to a storm – but Ophelia has still caused death and destruction as it hit Ireland’s southern coast on Monday morning.
At least three people have been killed, two of them when trees fell on their cars: in West Waterford a woman in her 50s died, while a man was killed by a falling tree in the east of the country. At Cahir in County Tipperary, a man died in a chainsaw accident after trying to remove a fallen tree.
The storm, downgraded from a hurricane overnight, made landfall with winds as strong as 176 kilometres an hour, according to the Irish National Meteorological Service.
Across the country nearly a quarter of a million homes and businesses were cut off, all schools as well as hospitals and public transport services were closed. Almost 150 flights cancelled at Ireland’s two main airports at Dublin and Shannon.
The prime minister said hurricane force winds were likely in every part of the country and warned everyone to stay indoors.
“This is a national red alert. It applies to all cities, all counties and all areas. And also bear in mind that even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers. There will be trees on the ground. There will be power lines down,” Leo Varadkar said.
Ireland’s worst storm in half a century was expected to be followed by flooding. The armed forces have been sent to bolster flood defences.
The storm’s power was evident at Cork City football club, where part of the roof was ripped off by the wind.
Northern Ireland was put on alert, with bad weather expected in western and northern parts of the United Kingdom. Strong winds battered Britain’s west coast on Monday afternoon, exactly 30 years after the Great Storm of 1987 which killed 18 people.