Emergency services praised for their response to the tragedy in Co Donegal

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Firefighters on site

Within 10 minutes of the explosion at a petrol station in the village of Creeslough, County Donegal, emergency services had arrived at a chaotic and traumatic scene.

When emergency personnel arrived to find huge concrete blocks, debris and rubble where the building once stood, the scale of the operation to come became clear.

Civilians were already there, using car jacks to try to free those trapped in the large piles of rubble.

The massive rescue operation involved the Irish Coast Guard, Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 118, Irish Air Corps 112, Northern Ireland Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS), Irish Community Air Ambulance, l Northern Ireland Search and Rescue, Donegal Mountain Rescue, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Heart Team, Donegal County Council Civil Defense as well as dozens of people from the community of Creeslough.

Milford Guard Station Superintendent David Kelly said he didn’t have to reach out to colleagues – all of whom showed up for duty.

Donegal petrol station explosion scene
The explosion took place on Friday afternoon (Brian Lawless/PA)

Members of the Garda (police) from Letterkenny, Ballyshannon and Buncrana all appeared as news of the tragedy spread.

“That’s what it’s like to be in Donegal – we look after each other,” Superintendent Kelly said.

“We have to think about the people in our own department who participated. Resources were initially deployed from Millford Garda District, assisted by off-duty members.

“I’m proud to say that I didn’t have to ask people to show up for work, they came.”

Explosion at Donegal petrol station
Emergency services continue to work at the scene of an explosion at an Applegreen petrol station in the village of Creeslough in County Donegal, where ten people have now been confirmed dead (Brian Lawless/PA)

He also praised the “great help” provided by colleagues in the Northern Ireland emergency services.

Donegal Police said the blast claimed the highest number of civilian casualties in decades and required a massive emergency response.

Local cafes and restaurants opened their doors to rescuers, providing hot drinks and food to staff.

A local hotel has also blocked rooms for emergency personnel who have been working through the night.

Liam Geraghty, from the Garda press office, said the workers came across a “very traumatic scene”.

“It was a very confusing scene and there was a lot of debris, there were already traumatized people at the scene. Our colleagues will benefit from counseling services to deal with tragic circumstances,” Mr Geraghty added.

A minute’s silence was also held at a press conference at Milford Guard Station for the 10 people who died in the Creeslough blast.

Seven people are in hospital in Donegal while one patient has been transferred to a specialist burns hospital in Dublin.

Eight ambulances went to the scene on Friday and three on Saturday morning.

Explosion at Donegal petrol station
Emergency services continue to work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen petrol station in the village of Creeslough in County Donegal, where 10 people have now been confirmed dead (Brian Lawless/PA)

Four doctors and four paramedics were also involved.

Superintendent Kelly said the families were devastated by the incident.

“I want to offer, on my behalf and on behalf of my colleagues who witnessed the scene, our very sincere condolences,” he added.

Garry Martin, director of Donegal County Council’s emergency services, said workers will remain on site in Creeslough for the ongoing search and verification phase to ensure no more casualties remain in building.

He said six firefighters went to the scene, including 65 firefighters and 20 members of civil protection, a structural engineer and road workers.

“I would like to acknowledge the help of our colleagues from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, who assisted with specialist equipment and search dogs,” added Mr Martin.

“I would also like to acknowledge the enormous contribution of the local community who participated in large numbers and contributed so much to our efforts.

“Over the past day and after a detailed site analysis, the incident has progressed to a search and recovery phase. We will remain on site in a continued search and verification phase to ensure no further more victims in the building.

John Joe McGowan, chief paramedic for the National Ambulance Service for the Western Region of Ireland, said words cannot describe the efforts of the emergency services in Creeslough.

“Each of you went above and beyond with your response,” he said, giving special thanks to the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance for their support.

“We will continue our efforts and work with our colleagues in the gardai and fire departments until all recovery efforts are complete.”

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