Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the entire nation is mourning the 10 victims killed in a devastating explosion at a petrol station.
The blast at the service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal, on Friday, claimed the lives of four men, three women, two teenagers – a boy and a girl – and a girl of primary school age.
Teenage rugby player Leona Harper has been named as among those killed.
Letterkenny Rugby Club paid tribute to the “talented rugby player” and an “important part of our U14 girls’ team” in a post on their Facebook page.
The club said: “We are heartbroken to say our worst fears have been confirmed… to Leona’s parents, Hugh and Donna, her brothers Anthony and Jamie, and all of her team mates, we offer you our deepest condolences and support.
“There are no words that feel strong enough at a moment of deep sorrow such as this.
“Rest in peace, Leona.”
Jessica Gallagher, who was understood to have been in her early 20s; shop worker Martina Martin; Catherine O’Donnell and her son James; and Hughie Kelly, have all been named locally as among those who died in the blast.
Four others, including a girl of primary school age, were also killed.
Eight people injured in the explosion remained in hospital on Saturday.
The explosion is being treated as a “tragic accident” by Irish police.
Mr Martin visited the site and spoke to members of the emergency services who had worked for 24 hours to locate victims following the explosion. The lengthy search and recovery operation concluded on Saturday afternoon.
He said there was “deep sadness” in the village and a “terrible silence” reflecting the enormity of what has happened.
“The entire nation is mourning and deeply saddened.
“A young child in the shop and two teens, as well as men and women who were going about their lives as well.
“It is a very close-knit community and our heart goes out to them.”
The Taoiseach added: “Talking to those on the front line and everyone involved, they were very moved by the extraordinary support they got from the community here almost immediately.
“Many volunteers rushed to the scene to try and do everything they could to help because it was an horrific scene they came upon and we must always remember our emergency services.
“I want to thank them for helping those who were trapped and injured. We must do everything we can to support the community.
“Words on their own will not console someone who has lost a loved one and we have to be with them. We will be with them for quite some time.”
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Ireland’s main opposition party, also visited Creeslough on Saturday evening, as did the country’s deputy premier, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.
Disaster-hit community wrestles with ‘tsunami of grief’
It would be difficult to exaggerate the sense of shock in Creeslough.
This tiny, picturesque village in County Donegal is attempting to comprehend an enormous tragedy.
There is an eerie silence, people numbed by what has happened here.
Parish priest, Father John Joe Duffy, told me he was dealing with “a tsunami of grief”.
He has been providing pastoral support to the bereaved and those still waiting for news.
The petrol station was a community hub and would have been packed at the time of the explosion.
Local people were digging through the rubble in an attempt to rescue those trapped when help arrived.
Fire and ambulance services from Northern Ireland crossed the border to assist their colleagues.
People have been arriving with hot food for emergency teams delicately searching the debris.
One local politician said: “We are seeing the best of this community as it faces its worst day.”
The political leaders later joined emergency service members and local residents for a service for the victims at a nearby church.
Parish priest Fr John Joe Duffy told the Mass: “Our hearts are indeed broken, we all sense a numbness, a disbelief that we are really experiencing this tragedy, that it is real.
“The grief we see in the young and in the old shows that this is a family that cares for each other, a genuine community.
“We suffer the loss, we all sense the pain.
“The days ahead will be difficult days. I wish there was some easier way, but unfortunately there is not.
“However, the strength of our community will carry us.”