Tornado causes destruction in Leitrim village

Damage in Leitrim Village with emergency vehicles in background
Image caption,Leitrim County Council said emergency services responded to “a freak weather incident, in the form of a tornado”

A tornado has caused damage to vehicles and buildings in Leitrim village in County Leitrim.

It happened early on Sunday afternoon as heavy rain was passing over the area.

Footage and photographs posted online show the aftermath of a “freak” event that has left some residents having to seek alternative accommodation.

It came as severe wind warnings were issued for the west coast of Ireland, including, briefly, a red warning, the highest weather alert.

“It only lasted a very short amount of time but caused a lot of damage,” said Paddy Farrell, a Leitrim county councillor.

Car with wood through its windscreen
Image caption,There has been extensive damage in the village

Mr Farrell was driving through the village when the tornado struck.

“I missed it by a few seconds. I was very lucky,” he said.

“I kept driving to get away from it – otherwise my car would have been badly damaged.”

“I don’t think anyone was badly hurt, thankfully, but the roof of a building has been taken off and a lot of cars have been damaged.

“There’s a lot of debris out in the street and the emergency services are at the scene”.

A matter of seconds

One witness to the incident, photographer Willie Donnellan, told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that he heard lightning and a very loud bang on Sunday afternoon.

He then ran out of his house and saw the tornado coming up the canal and flattening a row of trees before taking the roof off a building.

Mr Donnellan said the weather incident lasted for around 30 seconds.

Fire engines behind tape with debris on the road
Image caption,Emergency services were at the scene of the incident and the village was closed

Local resident Paddy Cunningham told BBC News NI: “I was coming into the town and noticed street lights flickering and electric out in the buildings.”

Mr Cunningham said that when he saw the damage he initially he thought there had either been a gas explosion or a lightning strike.

“I came to the bridge and saw people running around with their hands on their heads and shouting – it was like an explosion site,” he said.

“There was damage everywhere and lots of people trying to clear the street to get cars out of the way and to make is safer for everyone.”

An overturned boat
Image caption,Six boats in the marina were overturned, business owner Seamus Gibbons said

Seamus Gibbons runs an electric-bike store in the village, which is on the River Shannon. He said he had “never seen anything like it”.

“Six boats in the marina are overturned,” he said.

“It was unbelievable carnage. My roof was shredded and the slates were ripped off.”

He added: “The gable window of my building was put through and half the roof was ripped off the storage building out the back – and I still haven’t found where that landed.

“The people living in the apartment above my shop have had to move out and the business will be closed for a while now.”

Collapsed wall
Image caption,Structural damage in Leitrim village after Sunday’s tornado

Gardaí (Irish police) and other emergency services remain at the scene of the incident on Sunday night.

Gardaí said the the village was closed and urged people to “avoid the area”.

Leitrim County Council said it had “responded to a freak weather incident, in the form of a tornado”.

Staff from council’s fire service, the Roads Department and the Civil Defence attended, it said, along with gardaí and the ambulance service.

“A number of vehicles and properties in the village suffered significant damage, with the roof being removed completely from one building and a number of other building suffering roof damage,” the council said in a statement.

It said some residents required alternative accommodation and the council had provided accommodation for them.

Street damaged by storm
Image caption,The roof of one property in Leitrim was completely taken off

The main road through the village will remain closed until an assessment of structural damage has been carried out, it added.

Weather warnings were in place on Sunday as Storm Fergus moved across the island of Ireland.

A red alert – the highest weather warning – was issued for County Galway, with Irish weather service Met Éireann warning of average wind speeds of up to 85kh/h (52mph) between 15:30 and 16:30 local time, before easing.

A Status Orange warning was in place for counties Galway, Clare and Mayo until 20:00 local time.

Along with Leitrim, a yellow warning for wind was issued across 19 counties.

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