South Belfast was likened to a “third world country” as it was plunged into crisis by water shortages.
People queued for showers and drinking water at Olympia Leisure Centre on the Boucher Road, where one boss said the lack of police presence was putting further strain on the facility as it struggled to cope with the influx of locals seeking water.
Frustrated residents were turning up to be told they had to provide their own containers to fill with water, while NI Water phone lines remained jammed as tens of thousands of people across the province tried to get answers.
Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers have called a meeting today to discuss the crisis.
Terry Doherty from the Upper Lisburn Road had been without water for two days. He said: “I’m here with my 20-year-old son and my wife. We’ve had no water since Monday. We heard the local leisure centres were available for showers, so we came down. They have been absolutely tremendous.
“But I am extremely annoyed with NI Water. We’ve been ringing them since Monday night and can’t get through.
“It’s very badly managed. I know we have had conditions out of the ordinary, but this lack of information is a big problem.”
Louise O’Neill from the Ormeau Road fumed: “It's a total disgrace. Queuing for fresh water is what you see in third world countries not in a capital city in the 21st century.
“NI Water is a shambolic excuse for a government organisation and as always it's the old and vulnerable who suffer most.”
Hazel Wales, who came all the way from Hillsborough, said things were “dreadful”.
“We are working together to make a bad situation better. I’m going to the gym for a shower, which is a real inconvenience.
“We have no information, the lines are engaged. Everyone is in a panic.”
Roger Boyd from Malone added: “I’m down for a swim and a shower. I don’t think anyone knows when the water will be back on.
“I can’t get a reply from NI Water. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
An NI Water spokesman said: “Due to the unprecedented high volume of calls, a number of customers have experienced a longer waiting time than usual when calling our Waterline number. The phones are fully staffed and operating to full capacity.”
Belfast City Council has opened an emergency call centre — Belfast residents can call 0800 707 6965 for information.
Anyone concerned about safety can visit www.nidirect.gov.uk.