By Constantinos Psillides
A 35-year old mother of five risked burning alive on Friday after her bedroom caught fire from candles she lit because her electricity had been cut, the fire service said.
Spokesperson Liza Kemidji told the Cyprus Mail that the woman’s apartment in the Agios Nicolaos area in Limassol suffered extensive damage due to the fire. The 35-year old reported the fire at 5am
The children were not in the house at the time. They have been under the care of the welfare services for some time.
The woman had lit a number of candles in her apartment to keep warm and find her way around.
She was without power for the last 15 days because she could not pay off a debt to the electricity authority (EAC).
In an interview with Sigma TV, the woman, whose name has not been disclosed, said that she had gone without power for six months because she owed the EAC €740.
She said she had agreed with the company to pay her debt in monthly installements. The woman said she paid €450 15 days ago but missed her next payment.
“They cut the power again a day after that,” she said.
The woman is unemployed and lives off a €352 monthly allowance from the welfare services. She claims that she is unable to find work due to a knee injury.
EAC spokesman Costas Gavrielides, told the Cyprus Mail that the company tried to help her pay her bills but they were unsuccessful.
“We tried to settle the debt but she couldn’t make her payments. The EAC treats everyone the same so we can’t go through each and every case to determine who has money to pay and what their circumstances are. If people don’t pay their bills, we cut off their power. We are not allowed to do otherwise,” Gavrielides said.
He added that whenever EAC officials come across cases like this they refer them to the welfare services.
“They are the ones responsible for helping out in these cases. The only thing we can do is help people by making it easier for them to pay but if they don’t, then we have to flip the switch. This is what we would do for anyone, this is what we did now,” he said.
He said members of the board of directors, EAC employees, even unions, have from time to time paid the electricity bill for people who couldn’t do so. “But they did so out of their own pockets and in their volition. The organization cannot do that.”
News portal Sigmalive later reported that an citizen came forth and gave the 35-year old €1,000 to pay her bill. The concerned citizen contacted the portal which in turn put them in touch with the woman’s case worker over at the welfare services.