Thugs attack NI Water workmen - lorry smashed with iron bars and set on fire
Contractors pulled out of watermains upgrade project after attack
Masked men wielding iron bars have attacked NI Water workmen in north Belfast by smashing their lorry and setting it on fire.
The contractors were carrying out work on Friday morning as part of the £10 million upgrade of water mains when "a number" of masked men approached them.
They smashed the lorry with iron bars and used an acroprop to smash the windscreen before setting the lorry alight.
There are no reports of any injuries, but police and firefighters attended the scene and the lorry was badly damaged.
The attack happened at about 9.30am in Ladbrook Drive.
NI Water condemned the attack and said it has pulled its workmen out of the area for their safety.
A spokeswoman said: "In the interests of health and safety NI Water has been forced to withdraw its contractors from the area following this serious attack.
"Our paramount concern is the safety of our workers and we will not put them in danger. The contractor was working on a £10 million scheme to improve the supply of water in the area, this attack is completely unwarranted, unprovoked and unnecessary. Our teams are there working for the good of the community to provide a safe and reliable service.
"The real shame of this situation is that it will be the local community who will suffer because of the mindless destruction of a few."
NI Water said the water mains project would improve of the quality of water and reduce interruptions and leaks.
One reason for the attack could be because of erroneous fears that meters being installed could be a preliminary to the introduction of water charging. Meters can be used for a variety of purposes including monitoring water flow.
Any decision on charging is a matter for the Executive and such a measure has been ruled out for the foreseeable future.
The spokeswoman added: "I would urgently appeal to the local community and their representatives to unite with us in ensuring the safety of our staff and their equipment."
Additional reporting by PA
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