Gus McNamara is struggling to keep warm. The 83-year old sits in his front room surrounded by candles, puffing on a cigarette, and staring at the fire his son Andy relentlessly stokes and fuels.
The lights went out in the pensioner’s house on Wednesday. On Thursday he buried his son Peter, 47, who passed away from a suspected heart attack. Gus’s wife Esther also died from heart disease and his daughter Mary succumbed to cancer two years ago.
Gus, of St Ita’s Street in St Mary’s Park, Limerick, fell in the dark as he made his way to bed on Thursday.
“I fell over there onto my hip and my shoulder. It’s very sore. I don’t mind, as long as I didn’t break it,” he croaked. “I’m 83, I must be living here 50 years. I never saw the likes of it in my life,” he says referring to the storms and floods.
“It’s very bad. We have no lighting, no television. We have nothing at all. I’m here with my son Andy. We’re without power three days. You can’t get out of the bathroom once you go at night, otherwise you’d fall and break your neck.”
Salvaging another bucket of coal from outside, Andy throws it on the fire: “I have to keep the fire going for my father because it’s freezing.”
Gus’s neighbour, and mother-of-two, Valerie O’Donnell, has had to move her three children out of their freezing family home to live with their grandparents.
“It’s tough. In this day and age it shouldn’t be happening. He (Gussie) has the fire on, but it’s not heating the radiators so the rooms (around the house) are ice cold,” she said.
“There is only this row of houses that is out [of electricity] along St Mary’s Park. I rang [the ESB] again today and I got an answer machine and I was told ‘11pm tonight’, it should be back on.”
Peter Duhig, 55, a father- of-two, is also struggling to cope without power: “I’m up at 6am because I have a child who is just two and a half years, and I’m trying to light a fire with a candle in my hand. I’ve no way of cooking or anything. It’s freezing.
“I’m up the walls trying to light fires and keep my kids warm. Surely there is something that could be done for us to keep things on standby, a generator or something. We need to keep warm. I have osteoporosis as well as arthritis, which is terrible on my bones.
“In this day and age I just can’t understand how they don’t have a standby... I have plastic stick-on lights on the walls, that I got from the euro shop, just to keep a bit of light in the room at night. We’re not getting any help down here. We’re just forgotten about down here,” he added.
Margaret ‘Madge’ Lysaght was born in the estate 78 years ago and has lived there ever since. “I have no heat, no electricity, that’s it. I have nothing,” she said.
“I’m going to be in hospital next week with pneumonia. I’ll be 78 in June. The electricity is gone about two days. I think I’m getting dementia because I can’t think I’m so cold.”
About 3,000 homes across Limerick city and county are still without electricity. The ESB is hoping to restore power to some parts by 11pm tonight, but many customers face a third cold dark night by candle-light.
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