‘Santa won’t be able to find me’

MUM Natasha Wallace was in despair yesterday as her six-year-old son Colby broke down in tears and told her: “Santa won’t be able to find me.”

A fire in a vacant house next door has left the single mother and her six children facing an uncertain Christmas and future.

The blaze in the neighbouring house destroyed Ms Wallace’s rented home and other neighbouring properties in Ballinacurra Weston, in Limerick city.

The 29-year-old said: “My home and all of Christmas have gone up in smoke. All the presents I had in the attic for the children were destroyed.

“Colby was bawling crying and kept saying Santa won’t be able to find him as he has no home.”

Following the fire on Sunday afternoon, Ms Wallace and her children, Nadine, aged 10, Mark 8, Colby 6, Taylor 5, Troy 3 and two-month-old James Dean had to take overnight refuge in both a local hotel and with relatives.

Ms Wallace said: “The city council offered me temporary hostel accommodation in Moyross and I am not ungrateful, but it is totally unsuitable as it is on the other side of the city. It would mean dividing up the kids.”

Meanwhile, elderly widow Margaret O’Connor, aged 90, was also forced to leave her home following the fire in a terraced house at Crecora Avenue.

Mayor Jim Long said: “We have offered Mrs O’Connor a bungalow as temporary accommodation before we get her a permanent replacement in the New Year.

“We are doing all in our power to get permanent replacement accommodation for Natasha Wallace and I met with her in my office this morning.”

However, he said it was unlikely the council would be able to get the Wallace family a new, permanent home this week, indicating it would be most likely in the New Year.

The mayor said he has made a certain amount of emergency funding available to Ms Wallace to ensure she can get accommodation.

Meanwhile, she and three of her children stayed at the Travel Lodge Hotel on the Ennis Road on Sunday night while the other children stayed with her mother who also lives in Ballinacurra Weston.

The fire broke out in a vacant house at around 3pm on Sunday and major damage was caused to adjoining homes. Natasha said: “I was out doing the last of the Christmas shopping and when I got back the whole place was destroyed. There was a huge amount of damage caused to the house with smoke and water and the fire brigade had to break in through the roof.

“All the kids’ presents were destroyed. My Christmas and the children’s are destroyed. I don’t know what to do. I can’t get my head around it. My mother lives around the corner at Clarina Avenue, but she hasn’t enough room for us.”

She added: “Four of the children, who go to Our Lady of Lourdes, had to go to school without their uniforms or books because they were all destroyed.”

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