City council staff and incident response teams have been working around the clock to repair the damage caused by last Friday’s explosion, to minimise disruption to the public, and to continue with local authority business and services. It is now hoped that most of City Hall will be operational by next Monday.
Galway City Council officials had initially thought that City Hall on College Road would be open for business yesterday but after further assessments of the damage caused it was decided it will be Monday before full services will resume in the back building and partial services in the front building.
Four separate investigations were launched into the explosion which occurred at 7.50am on Friday and resulted in most of the ground floor in the front City Hall building being destroyed. Fire services were on the scene within minutes to ensure that the area was made safe. There were early reports of a possible gas explosion but these was soon dismissed with Bord Gais representatives confirming that there was no gas connection for the building. The Gardai also carried out investigations but the incident was deemed not suspicious. Investigations by the Health and Safety Authority and Galway City Council have been on-going this week with the focus being placed on the water heating system.
City council spokesperson Gary McMahon told the Advertiser yesterday that there is “no definite conclusion as to the source of the blast”. He added the cost of the damage is expected to be “significant” but that the full picture of the costs will not be known until next week at the earliest. The blast resulted in extensive damage to about one-third of the ground floor but there was no serious structural damage to the building itself.
Regarding the explosion Mr McMahon said that the council are “very thankful it happened when it did” as there were only about a half a dozen of the 200 staff present between the two buildings at City Hall. “Luckily there was no one in the area of the actual blast which was on the lower ground floor. Our finance section, behind the reception, was blown out as well as a number of door frames and windows. The blast went out and up through the building. There are seven or eight offices that would normally have 20 to 30 people working in them near to the area of the blast.”
Emergency services and city manager Joe MacGrath were contacted and were on the scene almost immediately. “An incident response team meeting was convened by the city manager by 8.54am and was attended by senior council officials and engineers. City Hall had to be shut down completely. The HSA were carrying out their assessments until late Monday,” said Mr McMahon.
The incident team have been meeting regularly since Friday, with the latest meeting taking place yesterday at 12 noon, to discuss action plans and to find alternative accommodation for the finance section which is not expected to be up and running for some time. Mr McMahon has moved to quell concerns for sensitive information in files or documents that might have been lost or damaged by the blast. He said that all files or documents “are absolutely intact”.
At present the damaged front building of City Hill is cordoned off and about 15 customer service personnel have been manning the phones at a city council facility on Sandy Road. A limited public counter service is operating out of the Transport and Infrastructure Office beside the Grammar School on College Road but the public have been requested to avoid calling in person to City Hall and to make payments online.
Last Monday’s city council meeting was held at County Buildings in Prospect Hill and county manager Martina Maloney has been praised for her help and assistance. Everything is being done to ensure the annual council meeting, which will see the election of a new city mayor, will be held at City Hall next Monday.