Leitrim tornado: ‘Everything went grey

People in Leitrim village were on Monday counting the cost, but also counting their blessings, in the aftermath of Sunday’s tornado.

Half a dozen cars were damaged, some families were forced to evacuate their homes, up to 20 roofs in the village were destroyed, boats in the marina were overturned and a trail of destruction caused by falling trees and flying debris was visible through the town.

But Adeline Guckian, whose family runs the Leitrim Inn and Blueway Lodge, echoed the thoughts of many when she said they were lucky not to be in mourning for lives lost.

There were still half-eaten breakfasts on the diningroom table 24 hours later, abandoned when the tornado hit. But Ms Guckian, who still doesn’t know when the business can reopen, was thankful the building had been re-roofed in 2020.

“We are thanking our stars,” she said looking at the house next door, which lost its roof.

Matthew Earley (22), who works as a barman in the Leitrim Inn, was first on the scene when a car being driven up the main street was hit by flying rafters from the next-door roof.

“The man’s face was covered in blood from his head to his shoulder but we helped them until the paramedics arrived,” he said.

“He had a gash on top of his head but they were okay. They were on their way to Dublin and just happened to be driving up the main street when it hit.”

His mother, Kathy, pointed out that if there had not been tea and coffee in the community hall after a month’s-mind Mass, Main Street might have been full of people. “Instead the street was empty, which was really lucky,” she said.

Chefs Bogdan Cosgaria and Marian Tanasa came to the rescue of an elderly woman who had just parked at the back of the Leitrim Inn. She was trapped in her car after falling debris flattened the back half of the vehicle.

Tanasa said his mother had rang him from Romania to say she heard there was a tornado in Ireland. “I said ‘Yes – it’s on top of my head,’” he joked.

Matthew Earley was in the bar when the lights started to go off and on. “The building actually shook and all the glasses started to shake,” he said. “Then the doors flew open and the tornado came through the building.

“Everything went grey and then we saw thing flying by the windows – slates, tiles and branches and other debris.”

He said people were stuck to the spot. “You could see terror in people’s eyes. They did not know what was happening.”

As the businesses counted the cost, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrived around lunchtime on Monday to express solidarity and promise that financial assistance would be available promptly.

“I think in many ways we are blessed that nobody was seriously injured or killed, given the level of damage that was done, considering the force of the wind that ripped through here,” Mr Varadkar said.

The humanitarian assistance scheme from the Department of Social Protection could be accessed immediately he said .

After spending more than an hour talking to locals as he walked through the village surveying the damage, Mr Varadkar said most people seemed to have insurance.

“But it can take time for that money to come through. And we can put in place some business supports in particular to help the businesses affected,” he said.

“Because there are people obviously who would have expected a very busy period in the run-up to Christmas, they would have staff who would have planned in their minds money, overtime and so on. Those are the kind of things we can help with.”

He said damage to things such as street lighting and some roads will have to be costed and there would be a “special allocation to the council” to cover those costs.

Adeline Guckian told the Taoiseach that after acquiring the business in late 2020 their first Christmas had been hit by Covid restrictions, their second Christmas by soaring energy bills due to the war in Ukraine “and now this”.

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