Creeslough: Seven dead after Donegal explosion

Seven people are now confirmed to have died after a huge explosion at a petrol station in County Donegal.

A search operation is continuing as a number of people are still missing. Eight people were also taken to hospital.

The explosion happened at an Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough on Friday afternoon.

Gardaí (Irish police) said three fatalities were confirmed on Friday and four were confirmed overnight.

The blast destroyed the building and a section of an apartment building.


Many emergency services vehicles remained at the scene overnight, including fire services from sides of the border, gardaí (Irish police) and civil defence, while a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of those who were injured in the blast from Letterkenny University Hospital to Dublin.


Creeslough is a small village in County Donegal near Letterkenny
Creeslough is a small village in the Republic of Ireland and is about 15 miles from Letterkenny and 30 miles from the border with Northern Ireland. It has a population of about 400 people.

In a statement on Twitter the Applegreen company said the news was “devastating”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” they tweeted.


The Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Micheál Martin, said he expects the death toll in Creeslough to rise.

“The shocking toll is at seven and there will be more – that’s what we are being told,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s a search operation now and we just hope and pray.

“The people in the vicinity have a lot of anxiety and stress. They are waiting, and waiting for news.

“The [emergency] services, and I have been talking to them, are really, really courageous.”

Local Sinn Féin politician Pearse Doherty said the community in Creeslough “will be forever changed”.

“It has affected so many and it has been said how close-knit this community is,” Mr Doherty said.

“The community is just in shock, we’re just numb and there are broken hearts all over.

“There are many people in this community that will see wakes and funerals… and that trauma is going to last a long time. “


Other emergency services from Northern Ireland have been assisting in rescue efforts.
A tragedy on this scale is really something this tight-knit rural community could never have imagined.

There is just such a sense of disbelief in Creeslough.

All that is left of the shop and the flats above is just a crumpled mess of rubble.

The emergency services worked through the night.

At times they asked for complete silence around them while they listened for signs of anyone trapped.

The cause of the explosion is still not known, but police are working on the theory it was perhaps a gas explosion.

Locals say it happened at a time when the shop would have been busy because local schools had just finished for the day.

It will be a major operation throughout the course of the day to try and find out if there are any more survivors here, or indeed if anyone else has lost their life.


The search operation is continuing as a number of people are still missing
On Friday afternoon, Letterkenny General Hospital said it was dealing with “a serious incident involving multiple injured people requiring immediate attention”.

It stood down its major emergency standby protocol at about 22:00 local time.

The hospital manager, Sean Murphy, said it was an “unbelievably tragic and sad day” for the community and county.


Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Murphy expressed his sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones and those who are waiting for news.

He also paid tribute to the work of staff at the hospital, as well as community and care services in the area.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the support we got from members of the public, those we had to ask to leave the hospital and go for treatment in primary care centres,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy said they admitted a number of children, but did not want to go into detail.

Liam McElhinney, chairperson of the local Gaelic Athletic Association club in Creeslough, Naomh Michaeál, said he had visited the shop a short while before the incident.

“I was in shock when the news came through. I myself had just left the shop at half two so it just shows you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

“Some of the people that have died are known personally by myself and it’s very hard to watch.

“It could have been any of us… it’s a massive thing to happen in our community and it’ll take a long time to get over it.”


A search operation is continuing as a number of people are still missing
Meanwhile, Irish President Michael D Higgins said his thoughts and prayers were with those who have lost their lives, and their families.

In a statement, President Higgins said: “May I, as president, express what I know will be the shock shared by all people throughout the country on learning of the terrible tragedy which has unfolded in Creeslough, County Donegal.

“All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected. Those who have got news of loss of a loved one, those injured and, most of all, those who are waiting with anxiety for news of their loved ones.”

Adrian MacAuley from Londonderry owns an apartment behind the petrol station.

“The place seems to be devastated,” he said.

“Our thoughts are with anybody that was injured in it because Creeslough is a fantastic community,” he added.

The scene outside the patrol station
Local resident Kieran Gallagher’s house is about 150 yards from the scene.

“I was in my house at the time and heard the explosion. Instantly I knew it was something – it was like a bomb going off,” he said.

Three people dead after Donegal explosion
Donegal Fine Gael TD (Member of the Irish parliament the Dáil) Joe McHugh said people in the area were “numb” with shock.

“It’s a very surreal situation here and we know there will be difficult times ahead,” he said.

Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, told BBC News NI everyone in the county was “shocked and shaken beyond words”.

Speaking from the scene, he said Creeslough was a “peaceful and quiet town” and it was a “terrible day”.


The Shandon Hotel in Dunfanaghy said some of its team members had been “directly affected” by the incident and was reserving spare rooms for first responders.

 

 

Source: BBC

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