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creeslough

A village - its heart ripped out - struggles to comprehend the scale of tragedy

Locals say there’s no-one in the community who won’t know someone who died in the blast.

 Diarmuid Pepper reports from Creeslough: 

AS THE COMMUNITY reels from an unthinkable tragedy, throughout the day locals in Creeslough have been doing whatever they can to help each other out and support the ongoing emergency response. 

Ten people – adults, teenagers, and a young girl aged just five – lost their lives following yesterday’s blast. 

Dozens of emergency workers from across the county and futher afield worked through the night to recover the dead and injured. 

The search and recovery effort at the devastated apartment block at the Applegreen service station has since been scaled back as there are no other people still unaccounted for.

Senior politicians, including the Taoiseach, have begun to arrive and are expected to attend a service this evening alongside grieving locals.

Speaking earlier, Micheál Martin said the government would do everything possible to help the community get through this “enormous trauma”.  

explosion-at-donegal-service-station Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images Brian Lawless / PA Wire/PA Images / PA Wire/PA Images

Around a kilometre from the site this evening – watching the scene before the Taoiseach’s arrival – you got a sense of the ‘Donegal spirit’ that locals say is needed now more than ever.

Men in hi-vis jackets patrolled the narrow routes that traffic has been diverted along, in order to allow the emergency services to carry out their tasks. The local volunteers raised a friendly hand as they directed the public and the media.

At the cordon, which is set back around 80 metres from the explosion, there was a sombre silence as locals try to get their heads around the scale of the tragedy.

Two of the victims were teenagers. Earlier this afternoon a handful of teenagers at the cordon wept as they were consoled by friends and family.

Shattered glass was scattered in the street in front of a house close to the explosion – its windows smashed by the impact of the blast. 

Some of the emergency crew were clearing up the shards earlier today while the homeowners sat against the window ledge, in a state of shock.

Girls in their late teens handed out teas and coffees to the emergency services and members of the public along the cordon.

“Look at that, they’ve been doing that all day,” remarked a guard. “That’s the Donegal spirit.”

At a press conference in nearby Milford later on, Superintendent David Kelly said it was “a tragedy for our community”.

All the victims were from the locality, he confirmed. “Forgive me if I get a bit emotional,” he told reporters at one point, before explaining that while a probe was ongoing the blast was being treated as a tragic accident. 

Back at Creeslough this evening emergency crews involved in the response trudged forlornly from the site of the wreckage to the nearby Coffee Pod.

Usually a hub for tourists staying in nearby glamping pods, it now serves as an impromptu hub for the emergency crews.

Its owner leaves bottles of water on a table outside for the crew, and also comes out periodically with staff to hand out sandwiches and teas and coffees.

Father John Joe Duffy of the Diocese of Raphoe labelled the response to the tragedy as the “national spirit” – noting how crews came from over the border in Derry and Belfast yesterday to help late into the evening and overnight.

At the press conference in Milford, this all-island response was noted several times and emergency crews in the North were thanked for their assistance.

The latest Garda statement, issued just before 6pm tonight, confirmed that the search operation at the scene had now ended. Eight people remain in hospital as of this evening. 

Post-mortems will take place in the coming days, and the community will have to observe multiple funerals as the week progresses.

Sinn Féin Donegal TD Pearse Doherty, who was also at the scene in Creeslough and was among those to greet the Taoiseach, said the close knit community had been turned “upside down”.

“The village here has less than 400 people. People know each other and know the people who are involved,” he told The Journal

The explosion, he said, “not only ripped the heart out of this building, but ripped the heart out of this community”. 

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