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Update on the response by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to Ex-Storm Ophelia

  • The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has been working with all other Government Departments and agencies at the National Emergency Co-Ordination Group (NECG) to support an effective whole-of-Government response to Hurricane Ophelia.
  • Departmental offices closed on Monday 16th October, due to the status red weather warning and the recommendation to avoid all unnecessary travel.  This decision was taken in the interests of the health and safety of our clients and staff. DAFM offices re-opened, Tuesday 17th October.
  • As of Tuesday 17th October, normal Departmental services to the agrifood sector (meat industry, dairy processing sector, export certification) are largely up and running (other than some localised disruption due to power outages).
  • The initial assessment of impacts on agriculture is that the main issues relate to power outages affecting dairy farmers in particular, some structural damage and fallen trees in rural areas, and an isolated incident involving an intensive production unit.  Farmers are urged to take particular care in dealing with these issues.
  • Dairy Farms: Although power restoration is proceeding well, power outages are still causing difficulties for some dairy farms.  The  Department has engaged directly with dairy processors and the farming organisations on this issue.  Farmers with spare generators are encouraged to contact their local co-op with offers of assistance. Dairy processors are best placed to manage logistics and direct resources where necessary.
  • The structural damage on farms looks to be lighter than Storm Darwin in 2014. Department of Agriculture inspectors are continuing review the position to provide a fuller picture on the extent of the damage.
  • The Department’s Animal Welfare Helpline, which gives guidance on protecting animal welfare and safety, in addition to responding to urgent requirements for emergency feed provision, has been operational throughout the period of the storm. A small number of calls have been received.
  • Teagasc offices were closed on Monday 16th October due to Ex-Storm Ophelia, staff nonetheless carried out basic monitoring on the ground of the effects of the storm on local farms. Teagasc offices re-opened on Tuesday 17th October and staff are actively assisting in monitoring post-storm effects.
  • There was some structural damage and Teagasc have reported that it was confined in the main to vulnerable farm buildings. That situation may change as the assessment progresses over the coming days.
  • Departmental staff will continue to take apractical approach in the course of necessary farm inspections, where problems arise that are the direct result of the hurricane.

 Forestry:

  • DAFM's Forestry Inspectors, together with Coillte and Teagasc continue to assess the impact on forestry plantations around the country. This work is based around on the ground local reports of damage which will inform the approach for further more focused assessments. There have been some reports of windblow mainly in the southern part of the country but indications to date suggest that damage is localised and not extensive nationally. Work will continue this week to form a full national picture of the storm impacts.  Reports of forest damage can also be made to DAFM by contacting us at: felling.forestservice@agriculture.gov.ie or Lo-call: 0761 064 415.
  • Safety remains the immediate priority. Dealing with fallen trees and windblown forests should not be undertaken without specialist expertise. Fallen trees can present significant danger, not least because they may also have brought down live power lines.  Anybody who believes this to be the case should immediately make contact with Electric Ireland on 1850 372 999.
  • The public should also stay clear of damaged trees which have not yet fallen as these also present a significant danger.  Local authorities have the lead role in clearing fallen trees from public roads and Coillte will continue to be available to assist and advise on this work.  Any concerns on fallen or damaged trees on private lands should be directed to tree care specialists or to Coillte for specialist advice.
  • Coillte is urging all users of forest lands including members of the public, to exercise extreme caution if entering forest lands following the damage caused by ex-Storm Ophelia.

Fishery Harbours /Fishing Vessels: 

  • While all fishing vessels had heeded warnings and gone to harbour in advance of the storm, there are reports of some damage to harbour infrastructure.  Specific reports have been received relating to damage at Dunmore East.  Maximum wave heights recorded on wave buoys on the south coast reached almost 18 metres and damage can be expected to small piers and harbours along the south and west coasts.  A more comprehensive assessment of damage to harbour infrastructure, fishing vessels and aquaculture installations is being collated.  It is likely that there may more significant damage to local authority-owned coastal infrastructure; however our initial contact with local authorities confirms that their current priority is removing fallen trees and clearing roads.

Date Released: 25 October 2017