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Thursday 28 August 2014

Farmers and elderly trying to keep warm among those hit hardest

Majella O'Sullivan and David Raleigh

Published 15/02/2014 | 02:30

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Limerick man Gus McNamara, 83, fell and hurt his hip during the electricity outage. Brian Gavin Press 22

POWER outages and water shortages are continuing to cause extreme hardship for people, thousands of whom are facing into their fourth day without services.

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Among those worst affected are the elderly – who are struggling to keep themselves warm – and farmers, many of whom depend on electricity to milk their cows or work the machinery on their farms.

And while ESB crews have been working relentlessly, the company has conceded it's struggling to cope and progress has been slow.

More than 8,000 individual faults remain on the electricity network with the majority of these affecting less than four customers each.

This means that many could be left without power, particularly in more isolated rural places, as continuing bad weather is causing new faults to the network.

Water supplies have also been hampered due to outages affecting pumping stations and treatment plants, particularly in Limerick, Clare and Kerry.

For pensioners like 83-year-old Gus McNamara from St Ita's Street in St Mary's Park in Limerick, it's a struggle just to stay warm.

The lights went out in the widower's house on Wednesday. The following day, he buried his son Peter (47), who died from a suspected heart attack.

Gus's wife Esther also died from heart disease and his daughter Mary succumbed to cancer two years ago.

Mr McNamara fell in the dark as he made his way to bed last night, injuring his hip and shoulder.

"It's very sore. I don't mind, as long as I didn't break it," he said.

Mr McNamara has been living in the house for 50 years but says he has never before seen the likes of the recent storms.

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

"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."

His neighbour, and mother of two, Valerie O'Donnell, has had to move her three children out of their freezing family home.

"It's tough. In this day and age it shouldn't be happening," she says. "He (Mr McNamara) has the fire on, but it's not heating the radiators so the rooms (around the house) are ice cold."

Meanwhile, in Co Kerry, dairy farmer Brendan Cronin is concerned for his animals' welfare.

In the peak of the calving season, a prolonged power cut couldn't have come at a worse time and he and his neighbours have been without electricity since lunchtime on Wednesday.

He's had to milk his 42 cows twice daily in the dark, but says he's one of the lucky ones because he's able to power his older milking machine from his tractor.

"Please God they'll get to us soon enough," he said. "We're battling on as best we can but it has really increased the workload because everything that was done by machine now has to be done manually," he said.

The ESB has also moved to dispel rumours on social media that it was releasing water from Inniscarra Dam that was contributing to flooding in Cork.

A spokesman said the company didn't envisage any releases until after lunchtime today.

Irish Independent

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