LEICESTER, UK – An explosion at a petrol station in a small town in Ireland was “the darkest day” in County Donegal, according to the local bishop.
At least nine people have been confirmed killed after Friday’s explosion in Creeslough, a small village of nearly 400 people in the far north of the country, in part of Ulster in the Republic of Ireland but near the border with Northern Ireland. Eight people were injured in the explosion.
The gas station also contained the village’s main store and post office. The explosion flattened the building and damaged an adjacent residential building.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and the extent of the injuries caused,” said Alan McGuckian of Raphoe.
“In the wake of this heartbreaking human tragedy, I ask all parishes in the Diocese of Raphoe to come together to pray at Mass this weekend, so that people can offer comfort and support to each other and to all who suffer. God always walks with us, in light and in darkness, so let us embrace the power of prayer in this time of need and He will be there for us,” the Bishop said in a statement Saturday.
“Last night I went to Cresslough to offer pastoral support. I met and prayed with family members who are in terrible shock and pain. In order to offer a supportive presence today, I will be in Cresslough with Bishop Andrew Forster, Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, to meet and pray with the bereaved family members, friends and neighbors of the deceased and injured,” he said. he continued.
(The Church of Ireland is the Anglican denomination for the island.)
“I witnessed firsthand the immediate reaction of the local community to the tragedy who, in their bravery, took risks on the site to help others, even at the expense of their own safety. I would like to commend first responders and emergency services in Donegal and Derry for their high level of professional cooperation and rapid response,” said McGuckian.
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said it was one of the “darkest days for Donegal and the whole country”.
“The people of this island will be numb to the same sense of shock and utter devastation as the people of Creeslough at this tragic loss of life,” Martin said.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, who represents Donegal in the Irish parliament, said the service station was well known across the country due to its commanding position on the main N56 road and was “the heart of the local community.
“People are shocked and numb,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE. “People have come together and everyone is concerned about the families of those who have lost loved ones and how they can support them in the days ahead.”
Emergency responders from Ireland and neighboring Northern Ireland are involved in what police have described as a “search and recovery” operation. Sniffer dogs combed through the debris and a mechanical shovel lifted piles of rubble from the site.
Father John Joe Duffy celebrated mass at St Michael’s Church in Creeslough on Saturday morning to pray for those killed and injured in the disaster.
“With all our heart, with all our heart and with all our soul, we pray for those who died, we pray for those who were injured, we pray for all those who were involved. We pray for those who are there and continue to help and have helped since yesterday,” he said.
“We also pray for family members who are grieving, and we pray for those who are still awaiting news. We hold them all very tightly in our hearts. Let us pray for the peace of God in all our hearts and souls and for those who suffer the most this morning,” the priest continued.
Speaking later to press associationDuffy described the community as “heartbroken” and “at a loss for words”.
“What I ask is that the prayers of the people of this county and across the country pray for us, help us, and give us strength to get through these difficult times and difficult days that may lie ahead,” said the priest.
This article incorporates material from The Associated Press.
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