December 30, 2010 — Bottled water was delivered to the doorsteps of homes in Northern Ireland on Wednesday after some people were left without water for more than a week while others have had sewage flooding their homes.
The freezing winter weather and a quick thaw that followed burst mains and pipes across the province, affecting 40,000 homes and businesses in Belfast as well as 77 other towns and villages, state supplier Northern Ireland Water said.
Fears of a public health crisis in Northern Ireland grew as the state water provider warned supplies would not return to normal for days.
It's only by clean water and sanitation with hot running water that disease spread can be stopped, including winter vomiting bugs, e.coli. We're in an absolute crisis situation, said Dr. Peter Maguire.
Farmers were also worried about getting water for their livestock. Officials blamed NI Water for being unable to cope as CEO Laurence Mackenzie offered his apologies to the public during a news briefing.
I'm very, very sorry for the people being off supply, very sorry and my focus is on trying to get those people back on supply, Mackenzie said.
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 services 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.
An emergency meeting of the province's ministerial executive will be held on Thursday to discuss the crisis. Scotland has sent 160,000 litres of drinking water.