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A capsized boat in Leitrim harbour today. Muiris O'Cearbhaill/The Journal
Storm Fergus

'It just came out of the blue': Leitrim village counts the cost of localised tornado

On a visit to the village today, The Journal saw damaged buildings, capsized boats and a car destroyed by an uprooted tree.

THE VILLAGE OF Leitrim was reeling today after a localised tornado hit the town yesterday afternoon.

The Journal saw damage to buildings and the marina, as well as capsized boats and a car that had been destroyed by an uprooted tree.

Those living and working on the village’s main street don’t know when they can return to their homes and businesses.

As the Taoiseach, Sligo-Leitrim TD Frank Feighan and reporters were guided through the rubble in the village today, they passed a car which had been totally destroyed when the tornado whisked a tree trunk almost a 100 yards across a nearby field.

IMG_1221 A damaged car in Leitrim village today. Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal / The Journal

The tree landed on top of the car before bouncing to the ground. Reporters heard that a woman had been sitting in the driver’s seat at the time.

“If she had parked any closer to that fence, she’d be dead,” one local said.

A couple, who had arrived earlier with bags to collect things from their home, brought the press and Varadkar into their back garden.

The kitchen window had been shattered and shingles from the roof had fallen off, landing in the centre of the back garden.

Across the road, another house’s solar panels had been shattered. The owner told Varadkar that the majority of the damage had happened to the shed behind the house.

A short walk down the road at the marina, two boats were capsized and tree bark littered the car park. One of the capsized boats’ owners said she was unsure when her vessel would be righted, as airbags were needed to do so.

She told the Taoiseach that two people had been on their boats in the marina at the time of the tornado, but had made it on to dry land safely. The dock of the marina was destroyed and in the water.

John Pierce, owner of The Barge Restaurant and Pub was just opening up his business yesterday when the freak weather event started yesterday.

“I was in the pub and all the staff were here. We were just opening the doors and we just had to close them fairly rapidly because of the impact straight away. It just came out of the blue,” Pierce told The Journal outside his pub today.

IMG_1096 John Pierce outside his restaurant and pub The Barge Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal Muiris O'Cearbhaill / The Journal / The Journal

He and the five staff members have considered themselves lucky as very little damage was caused to their place of work.

Although rare, tornados happen in Ireland about 10 times each year on average

There were a number of weather warnings in place over the weekend as Storm Fergus crossed over the country, but Leitrim was the area worst affected. Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported.

Pierce said: “It’s not too bad. You know, it’s the outside and around the back [that's damaged]. I could be dead. Let’s put it like that.”

“We’ll need a bit of support, I would say whatever they give us, we’ll be grateful, and I don’t know how things are going to fathom out.

Hopefully, we’ll get a good Christmas after this devastation.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed this afternoon that the Humanitarian Assistance Scheme from the Department of Social Protection will be available to those who have been impacted by the tornado.

The scheme provides emergency financial assistance households affected by a severe weather event. It aims to “lighten the hardship rather than provide full compensation for damage”, according to the Department.

Four doors down from The Barge, The Blueway Lodge & Leitrim Inn was less fortunate.

From standing on the main street, it could be seen that the roof of a building beside the bar had collapsed and a stone wall had toppled onto the footpath.

Reporters and the Taoiseach were also able to visit behind the building, where glass had shattered in the smoking area and an adjacent residential house, with much of the structures also damaged.

Varadkar said the next step was to engage with the insurance companies, adding that most people in the village are insured.

Several locals told Varadkar that although they were insured, they were uncertain how long they’d have to wait to get the money needed to begin their own renovations.

Feighan said the town was thankful no one had been injured. He said the “precedent” among government was that there would be state support offered to the cohort affected in the town.

Justin Warnock, a Fianna Fáil Councillor and chair of Leitrim County Council, said: “It was very lucky this wasn’t a catastrophe with serious injury – but there’s a lot of damage and it’s worrying for a number of families.”

He welcomed the Taoiseach’s visit, which he said was important and worthwhile as rural Ireland sometimes feels forgotten.

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