Northern Ireland water crisis escalates

About 40,000 people across Northern
Ireland are struggling to cope without water supplies.

Northern Ireland Water has warned
that the disruption could continue for several more days.

Ministers and officials are meeting
to take stock of widespread disruption caused by burst pipes.

Almost 80 towns and villages across
NI have been affected. Some people have been without water for eight days.

NI Water said an unprecedented
number of leaks caused by the thaw had put “big pressure” on its
systems.

The company said it was alternating
supplies from reservoirs in a bid to give every area a limited supply, causing
more interruptions.

Liam Mulholland, head of customer
services for NI Water, said the circumstances were unusual and unprecedented.

“It is understandable that
people are angry,” he said.

“The level of contacts that we
have had is unprecedented. In a normal day we would take about 1,000 calls. But
that has risen by 600 per cent. We are doing everything we can. We have more
than 300 staff out seeking and fixing bursts.”

Asked why Scotland had not
experienced similar cuts to supplies, he said: “Scotland has had investment,
whereas we haven’t.”

“There is an immense drain on
the system because of vacant premises,” he said. “We would appeal to
business owners to please check their premises.”

Dr Peter Maguire, a doctor from
Newry, has been living for eight days without water.

“This is really now a public
health emergency. NI Water has been shambolic. Young families have been left
without drinking water and not able to flush toilets. This is unacceptable.

“There are too many vulnerable
people who are now without a water supply for over a week,” he said.

“The situation is unprecedented
but now it is getting out of control.”

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