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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.   Farmers are urged to take particular care in dealing with these issues.

 

Dairy Farms:

  • Power outages have caused particular difficulties for dairy farms.     The indications are that many farmers were well prepared through use of back-up generators.   We are aware that every effort is being made to share out whatever generators are available to the worst affected farmers. The Department has liaised directly with dairy processors though the Department’s local dairy inspectorate, and also with ESB Networks.  Dairy processors have identified suppliers where problems exist and contingencies are being put in place.  As more information on power restoration is being made available, processors are better placed to direct resources where necessary.  The Department will continue to liaise with dairy processors. Minister Creed is urging Milk Purchasers to provide frequent collection to lessen the need to overly ‘tie up’ generators for cooling, post milking thereby making maximum use of generators for milking.
  • The structural damage on farms looks to be lighter than Storm Darwin in 2014. The Department is not currently aware of any loss of livestock as yet. However, this assessment is preliminary.  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.
  • Whilst 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 are working to assess the impact on forestry plantations around the country. This work is initially based around on the ground local reports of damage which will inform the approach for possible further satellite and ground based assessments. There have been some reports of forest damage but it is expected that it will take some time to form a full national picture of the 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 dangers, 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.
  • All Coillte forests and recreation sites remain closed to allow ongoing damage assessment and further announcements in this regard will follow.

 

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: 19 October 2017

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