Death toll from petrol station blast expected to rise beyond seven

The explosion happened in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal.

08 October 2022

The death toll from an explosion at an Irish petrol station is expected to rise beyond the seven fatalities already confirmed.

A search and recovery operation is continuing in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, as rescue workers try to locate several people who are still missing.

Friday afternoon’s blast ripped through the Applegreen service station and convenience store and adjacent buildings.

Having announced three fatalities on Friday night, the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, confirmed a further four deaths in a statement on Saturday morning.

The force said: “An Garda Siochana can now confirm seven fatalities as a result of this incident – three fatalities were confirmed yesterday, four fatalities are now confirmed overnight.

“The search and recovery for further fatalities continues.

“Eight persons were transferred to hospital for medical attention yesterday.”

A major emergency response operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border extended through the night and continued on Saturday morning.

Rubble was being moved on to trailers and hauled from the scene.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Emergency services continue their work at the scene (Brian Lawless/PA)

Two rescue workers were on a raised platform above the site of the explosion and a digger was working through the debris.

Among those gathered at the cordon on Friday night were relatives of people believed to have been in the buildings at the time.

Sniffer dogs were being used amid the rubble.

At one point on Friday night all machinery was turned off and onlookers were asked to remain silent as rescue workers attempted to detect survivors beneath the debris.

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins expressed his shock at the “terrible tragedy”.

“All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected,” he said.

“Those who have received news of the loss of a loved one, those injured and, most of all, those who are waiting with anxiety for news of their loved ones.

“This tragedy is a terrible blow to a community that is closely knit and where every loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond.”

Irish premier Micheal Martin said he expected the death toll to rise.

The Taoiseach described Friday as the “darkest of days” for Donegal and Ireland.

“People across this island will be numbed by the same sense of shock and utter devastation as the people of Creeslough at this tragic loss of life,” he said.

The Garda has not provided any information on the suspected cause of the explosion.

Donegal TD Pearse Doherty, who was at the scene on Saturday morning, said there were a number of people missing.

He told the PA news agency: “The rescue and recovery operation went on through the night.

“This explosion not only ripped the heart out of this building, but ripped the heart out of this community and left a huge amount of devastation.

“In the early hours four more bodies were recovered, bringing the overall death toll to seven.

“There are a number of people still missing and the emergency services are working tirelessly to remove debris and to recover other individuals who may still be in that building.”

Seven bodies have been found in the debris (Brian Lawless/PA)
Seven bodies have been found in the debris (Brian Lawless/PA)

Local priest John Joe Duffy said the community was “numb and devastated”.

“We’re just broken-hearted, everyone is broken-hearted, we’re lost for words,” he told PA.

“What I’m appealing for is for the prayers of the people across this county and across the country, to pray for us, to help us and to give us strength to get through these difficult hours and difficult days that may lay ahead.”

On Friday night a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of those who were injured in the blast from Letterkenny University Hospital to Dublin.

Northern Ireland’s air ambulance was also deployed, as were fire crews and ground ambulances from the region.

Letterkenny hospital appealed to the public not to attend its emergency department unless it was urgent.

The hospital initiated its major emergency standby protocol earlier on Friday. It stood down the protocol late on Friday.

In a statement, the hospital said: “The hospital continues to treat those injured in the incident at Creeslough, Co Donegal, and remains on hand to provide all necessary medical assistance required.”

Applegreen Ireland directing manager Fiona Matthews said the company was “deeply saddened and shocked to learn the devastating news that lives have been lost in today’s tragic incident”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” she added.

“Creeslough is a small village and the supermarket and Applegreen outlet operated by our local partners there are at the heart of the community.

“Like the rest of Ireland, tonight we stand in solidarity with that community.”

Ireland’s deputy premier Leo Varadkar wrote on Twitter: “Terrible news from Donegal tonight.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events and with the emergency services responding.”

Nina Gabel, 35, who was at the cordon on Friday evening, described distressing scenes.

“There was one woman who didn’t know where her daughter was and she was very upset,” she told PA.

“There are emergency services everywhere, there were so many gardai and fire engines.

“What looked like local farmers’ tractors were helping to dig out the rubble.”

A local hotel stopped taking bookings from members of the public on Friday to ensure all spare rooms were held for first responders.

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