A major fire at the former convent building in Skibbereen has been "substantially extinguished", however fire crews remain at the scene tonight damping down hotspots.
Cork County Fire Service said in a tweet that there has been extensive damage to the building and the chapel.
Crews from the service were called to a fire at the former convent just after 4pm on Tuesday afternoon after flames were seen coming from the church on the grounds of the former Sisters of Mercy convent on Cork Road.
The fire ripped through the roof of the former church and damaged the adjacent former convent. Traffic diversions are in place as fire crews battle the ongoing blaze in heavy rain.
It is understood that eight pensioners were evacuated from sheltered housing near the location of the fire.
Units of Cork County Fire Service from Skibbereen, Schull and Bantry attended the blaze.
There has been no word yet on what started the fire.
Local Councillor Karen Coakley (FG) said:
“It’s absolutely devastating news.
“There were eight people in residential care at the front of the convent and thankfully, they were all evacuated safely.
“Two are in hospital at the moment as a precaution I believe and the other six are staying at the West Cork Hotel,” she added.
“The whole town is devastated.
“It’s a beautiful building and such an important part of the town’s history.
“Many people would have gone to school there and any communion or confirmation photos were taken in the garden there.” Cllr Coakley praised staff at the Courthouse and nearby company Spearline for aiding in evacuation efforts as well as local emergency services.
A garda spokesperson told The Echo that fire services were bringing the blaze under control last night.
“A number of people have been evacuated from the scene who live in the houses that are adjacent to the premises.
“No persons were injured and the residents of the houses have been housed for the night.”