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Top row left to right: Shauna Flanagan Garwe and her father Robert Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Jessica Gallagher. Bottom row left to right: Martin McGill, James O'Flaherty, Martina Martin, Catherine O'Donnell and son James MonaghanImage source, An Garda Síochána

Image caption,

Top row left to right: Shauna Flanagan Garwe and her father Robert Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Jessica Gallagher. Bottom row left to right: Martin McGill, James O’Flaherty, Martina Martin, Catherine O’Donnell and son James Monaghan

The village of Creeslough will never be the same again after an explosion that killed 10 people, residents have said.

The close-knit community of about 400 people, well-known to tourists visiting some of County Donegal’s most scenic spots, is coming to terms with an unprecedented scale of loss.

The explosion happened at a service station on Friday afternoon.

An investigation is under way into the cause, but police have said it appears to have been a tragic accident.

Candlelit vigils have been held, with tributes coming from the Pope, Irish president and neighbours.

On Monday, a statement from King Charles and the Queen Consort said they expressed their “most heartfelt sympathy and deepest condolences” to people who had lost loves ones and with “the people of Ireland”.

The monarch said they had experienced the “strong sense of community” that exists in Donegal from their visit to the county in 2016.

The first funerals of two of the victims, Jessica Gallagher, 24, from Creeslough, and Martin McGill, 49, who was originally from Scotland, will take place on Tuesday.

The funeral of James O’Flaherty, from Sydney, Australia will be held on Wednesday morning, followed by the funerals of Catherine O’Donnell and her son James Monaghan, from Creeslough, on Wednesday afternoon.

Image source, PA/Liam McBurney

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The coffin of James O’Flaherty is removed from the Eternal Light Chapel of Rest in Letterkenny

Mr O’Flaherty’s coffin was removed from the Eternal Light Chapel of Rest in Letterkenny earlier.

He was accompanied by his wife Tracey and son Hamish.

A village where everyone knows everyone

Among the other victims of the blast at a service station were a five-year-old girl and two teenagers, while there are eight people still in hospital.

In Creeslough, like many villages in rural Ireland, everyone knows everyone.

The youngest victim, Shauna Flanagan Garwe was a “playful, energetic little girl” who always asked for a lollipop, according to Creeslough pharmacist Fergus Brennan.

She was with her father Robert, known as Bob to the villagers, when the explosion happened.

Image source, PA/Liam McBurney

Image caption,

A member of An Garda Síochána lays flowers at he scene which she was given by a member of the public

The parents of Leona Harper, 14, described has a “a little gem” and thanked the digger driver who found her body after a 24-hour search.

“A massive thank you to him because he just didn’t stop until he got her,” Donna Harper told Highland Radio.

“Twenty-four hours before we got her and she was the last taken out. The doctors and everything, everybody was amazing the way they treated the whole scene from start to finish with nothing more than respect.”

Speaking outside St Michael’s Church before Mass on Monday, local resident Majella Russell said “ten beautiful souls have gone to heaven”.

Ms Russell, whose niece worked in the shop, said church services had been packed as “we just have to pray and be with each other”.

“All we have is our faith, our faith will get us through,” she said.

“We are just all numb, this is a very close community, it’s just unbelievable what’s happened.”

Villagers first on the scene

Butcher Patrick O’Donnell was working at the back of the shop when the explosion happened.

He was able to help an elderly woman from the scene but said local people “are the real heroes” for their rescue efforts.

“I’m praying for them as well because they went through a lot,” he said.

Businessman Brian Dolan was another of the first people on the scene, rushing the few hundred yards from his office to help in the immediate rescue efforts.

“You just went into autopilot trying to help your community,” he told BBC News NI.

Image source, Brian Lawless/PA

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The investigation into the cause of the blast is continuing

“There were dozens of people doing what they could do.

“We knew we couldn’t deal with it ourselves – it was beyond us and people knew that [emergency] services were going to be needed.

“We were trying to clear places for them and trying to clear a path into the building.”

He said people began clearing the debris without considering the potential dangers to themselves.

“I don’t think anybody that was there on the day was actually thinking about what they were doing,” he detailed.

On Monday, the Irish Red Cross announced it had set up the Creeslough Community Support Fund to help those injured, bereaved, made homeless or who had lost an income.

A separate online appeal for donations to help people in the village has surpassed €250,000 (£219,000) in two days.

‘Creeslough will never be the same’

On Sunday, An Garda Síochána (the Irish police force) confirmed the names of the 10 victims, who were all from Creeslough or the surrounding areas.

Vigils to remember those who died were held across County Donegal on Sunday evening.

Mr Dolan said they were “ordinary members” of the community.

He said that before the disaster most people in Ireland would never have heard of the village.

“We will get through it but Creeslough will never, ever, ever be the same for anybody here,” he said.

Afric McGlade, a former intensive care nurse who arrived to the service station minutes after the explosion happened, described the devastation she saw.

“I walked up and I could see all this debris, this dust – this thick, thick dust probably up to about knee level,” she said.

“There was a mother with a child that had a cut in the hand and there were men pulling out blocks that were there trying to clear the area.”

She praised the emergency services who arrived swiftly to help the casualties.

Image source, AFP

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Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin met emergency service workers when he visited Creeslough at the weekend

Emergency crews from Northern Ireland were sent across the border on Friday to help their Irish counterparts deal with the aftermath.

Creeslough resident Anthony Gallagher spoke to two search-dog handlers from Northern Ireland who had been part of the rescue operation.

“They looked a little bit stressed out because they had been in doing all the hard work, and they came down the road for a walk or a break,” he said.

“I had a conversation with them both – [it was a] difficult job and I thanked them for their help.”

A man in his 20s who was injured in the explosion is critically ill in St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Seven other people who were hurt are in a stable condition in Letterkenny University Hospital.