Limerick pensioner waits for power to come on day after burying his son

Gus McNamara. Pic: Press 22.

By David Raleigh
A pensioner suffering from pneumonia, an arthritis sufferer and another pensioner who has just buried his son are among the forgotten victims of the recent storm in Limerick.

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.

To rub salt into the wounding situation, Gus, of St Ita's Street in St Mary's Park, Limerick, fell in the dark as he made his way to bed last night.

"I did, I fell over there (points at door to the hallway) onto my hip and my shoulder. It's very sore. I don't mind, as long as I didn't break it," he croaked through his damp cold lungs.

"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 that have ravaged the estate.

"It's very bad. We have no lighting, no television. We have nothing at all," he added.

"I'm here with my son Andy. We're without power three days now. 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."

She added: "My kids have to sleep in their grandparents house, I haven't got my kids with me and it's tough. They have to sleep there because it's too cold (here). I can't cook for them (here), they have to cook over in the grandmother's house. It's tough going."

Ms O'Donnell said: "I haven't seen the ESB around. They haven't been down here checking to see or nothing."

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's just two and a half years of age, and I'm trying to light a fire with a candle in my hand. I've no way of cooking or anything, only go to the chip shops. It's freezing."

The father of two who suffers from osteoporosis and arthritis said he was at the end of his tether:

"I think there should be a standby thing to keep people going for three or four days. This is stupid and ridiculous. All the houses here are cold because of the flooding and I have arthritis myself and I need to have heat. I think it's absolutely scandalous."

"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, and I have to keep warm."

"I have to wrap myself up in tracksuits in the bed. I am crippled with the arthritis at the moment."

Repeating his frustration, he said: "In this day and age I just can't understand how they don't have a standby -- just a basic thing that could carry us through a few days until this is sorted out. I have plastic stick-on lights stuck up on the walls, that I got from the Euro shop, just to try and keep a bit of light in the room at night. They might last an hour or two and then you have to replace them again and you're trying to keep the fires on morning, noon and night."

"We're not getting any help down here. We're just forgotten about down here," he added.

Another local pensioner, 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 declared.

"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."

"When I go to bed I put on three jumpers, a pants, a pair of pjyamas and two coats. I have three quilts and anything else that I can find. Do you want to feel me, I'm frozen," she added.

Around 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, however many of their customers face a third cold dark night by candle light.

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