Thousands without fresh water in North Ireland
Peter Muhly / AFP – Getty Images
Some 40,000 people are struggling to cope without water supplies in Northern Ireland, where frozen pipes have burst leaving some without fresh water for nine days. People have been forced to join long queues for bottled water.
msnbc.com news services msnbc.com news services
updated 1 hour 54 minutes ago 2010-12-30T10:37:37
BELFAST — Northern Ireland’s government will hold an emergency meeting to address the country’s mounting water crisis as tens of thousands of people remained without water for a ninth day.
Engineers are struggling to repair pipes that burst after the recent cold spell’s sudden thaw.
Long lines formed Thursday at emergency water points, and Scotland trucked in bottled water for distribution to help families. Doctors are warning that a lack of clean water for drinking and washing could cause a health crisis.
Pressure is mounting on state supplier Northern Ireland Water (NI Water), the company at the center of the crisis, to restore service.
Government ministers will discuss the possibility of bringing in more water tankers as officials say it could take several days to fix the problem.
A big winter freeze followed by a swift thaw left burst mains and pipes across the province, affecting 40,000 homes and businesses in Belfast as well as 77 other towns and villages, NI Water said.
Some people have been left without water for more than a week and others have had sewage flooding their homes.
Council-run leisure centers offered free washing and showering facilities across the province, freestanding pipes were erected in streets to provide supplies and Scotland will send 160,000 liters of drinking water. Farmers were also worried about getting water for their livestock.
Public health emergency
“There is now really a public health emergency. Young families have been left without drinking water and unable to flush toilets. This is unacceptable,” Peter Maguire, a general practitioner near Newry, told the BBC.
“There are now too many vulnerable people who are now without a water supply for over a week. The situation is unprecedented but is now getting out of control,” said Maguire, who has been left without water for eight days.
Officials blamed NI Water for being unable to cope.
“Everybody knew that whenever the thaw came there were going to be problems with water, so I think there was a lack of preparation by NI Water,” Environment Minister Edwin Poots said.
“NI Water’s response was clearly inadequate and we are now looking urgently at what further measures can be taken to alleviate the problems people are facing. Clearly we must ensure that the vulnerable and those most at risk are protected,” First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness said in a joint statement.
NI Water said it was diverting reservoir supplies to different areas to try to provide all regions with a limited supply. But Liam Mulholland, head of customer service at NI Water, said it would be several days before the bursts were repaired.
Several Irish counties also faced severe shortages and state councils have rationed water in many areas, provoking anger from restaurants, pubs and hotels which are likely to be affected over New Year’s eve.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Note from Blogger: Wish most everyone had a Cistern full of clean water, it would mean better survival, and less govenment stress during such a crisis. Therefore if we start from the real top (Rain Clouds) and work our way down to Rooftop, to Cistern, to ground water filtration, to our aquifers, we would solve a huge amount of the budgetary crisis, as well as a termendous energy savings, a large reduction in global warming contributions, and almost elliminate bottled water needs.