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Two killed, thousands without power as storm hits Ireland

Ireland was hit by an “unprecedented storm” on Monday that left two people dead, 120,000 homes and businesses without power and closed every school in the country.

A police spokesman said one woman was killed outside the village of Aglish, near the south coast, apparently by a tree falling on her car.

“It’s a woman in her 50s. A female passenger was injured and is in Waterford hospital. She is in her 70s,” he told AFP.

The police said a man had also died in an accident while he was clearing a fallen tree with a chainsaw near the town of Cahir in the south.

Ophelia, the largest hurricane ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest north since 1939, was downgraded to a storm before it hit the Irish coast but nonetheless wrought havoc.

The “violent and destructive winds” that hit the south and west would rapidly extend to the rest of the country, the Met Eireann national weather service said.

Flooding was also expected “due to either heavy thundery downpours and or storm surges in coastal areas. There is a danger to life and property,” the agency said after issuing a red alert for the whole country.

Wind speeds reached 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour at Fastnet Rock, Ireland’s southernmost point, while the fastest speeds recorded onshore were 156 kph (97 mph) at the entrance to Cork Harbour in the southwest.

Seventeen millimeters of rain fell at Valentia on the southwest coast, including nine millimeters in one hour.

Dublin Airport scrapped 135 flights; Cork Airport cancelled most flights in what it said was the worst storm seen in its 56-year history, while several services to and from Shannon, the third-biggest airport, were also grounded.

Most of those 120,000 customers without electricity would be without power overnight, the Electricity Supply Board said.

PM says stay indoors

“Stay indoors wherever you are until the storm has passed,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters.

“I don’t want anyone to think that this is anything other than a national emergency and a red alert.

“Even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers. There will be trees on the ground and power lines down.”

The education ministry said “all schools, colleges and other education institutions” were closed on Monday, after official advice on the “unprecedented storm”.

Government offices were also closed.

The military has been deployed to areas forecast to be worst affected and are on standby.

Ireland’s top football team Cork City were hit when their stadium roof collapsed.

The eye of the storm is forecast to track across Northern Ireland and then Scotland.

Though it will weaken as it goes, gusts are expected to reach 80 mph (129 kph) in the UK.

Britain’s Met Office issued amber warnings for Northern Ireland, Wales, and southern Scotland.

“There is a good chance that power cuts may occur, with the potential to affect other services, such as mobile phone coverage,” the UK national weather service said, warning of transport disruption.

“Flying debris is likely, such as tiles blown from roofs, as well as large waves around coastal districts.

“This leads to the potential for injuries and danger to life.”

The storm came 30 years to the day of the Great Storm, which ravaged southern England in the early hours of October 16, 1987, leaving 18 people dead.

Hurricane season

Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the 2017 Atlantic season, which is expected to last until the end of November.

Three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused catastrophic damage in the Caribbean and the US Gulf Coast.

Ophelia was classed Category 3 on Saturday as it passed near Portugal’s Azores islands, which means it packed winds of at least 178 kilometers (110 miles) per hour.

Though seven of the nine islands in the Azores were on high alert, the storm did not cause major damage.

In Spain, three people have died in wildfires whipped by strong wind gusts spawned by Hurricane Ophelia.

Six people have also died in wildfires in Portugal, which local authorities said had been exacerbated by drought.

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