Work has begun on building a temporary bridge in Leenane, Co Galway, following the collapse of the village's century-old bridge in a landslide and flash flood yesterday evening.

Local authorities say they hope the temporary crossing will be in place within a fortnight.

Teams of council workers with earth moving machines moved into the village early this morning and began site excavation work for the emergency bridge.

Senior Engineer Evan Molloy says they hope to have the temporary bridge, capable of carrying light traffic, in place in two weeks.

Until then thousands of local people and tourists will have to make huge diversions of up to 100km around and away from the village.

The bridge, which is on the main N59 link road between Clifden and Westport, carried up to 4,000 vehicles a day, including almost all of the area's tourist traffic. It was a link for motorists between counties Galway and Mayo.

The council is also working on the provision of a temporary footbridge to link the two sides of Leenane, which are now cut off from each other.

The 100-year-old bridge was destroyed yesterday evening after four hours of torrential rain and a landslide that swept tonnes of debris down river.

Two of its three arches were swept away in minutes.

Leenane Development Association says it is delighted the council has moved so swiftly to the replace bridge.

Chairperson Ann Donnell said any delay in reopening the gateway N59 road through the village would have disastrous consequences for the area, which is almost totally dependent on tourism.