Thugs menace NI Water workers: Belief that meters being installed behind torching of van by masked men
Two workers were dragged from their van in north Belfast yesterday by masked men who believed they were there to install water meters.
The NI Water vehicle was also set ablaze with a petrol bomb at Ladbrook Drive in Ardoyne.
The incident took place at 9.30am.
A number of masked men carrying iron bars approached contractors carrying out work as part of a £10 million upgrade of watermains across north and west Belfast. It is understood the attack may have been motivated by fears locally that meters were being put in place.
An NI Water spokesman said the masked men smashed up the vehicle with iron bars and used a scaffolding pole to shatter the windscreen before setting it alight.
He said the van had been badly damaged, but added there had been no reports of any injuries.
NI Water condemned the attack and said it had withdrawn contractors from the area.
"In the interests of health and safety, NI Water has been forced to withdraw its contractors from the area following this serious attack," he said.
"Our paramount concern is the safety of our workers and we will not put them in danger.
"The contractor was working on a £10m 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 spokesman added that the people of Ardoyne would lose out.
"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," he said. "The water mains rehab work which is presently being undertaken by NI Water is solely concerned with the improvement of the quality of water being delivered to our customers and the reduction of interruptions and leakage on the system.
"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."
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy condemned the attack on the contractors as "mindless violence".
"It was a very frightening incident for the workers involved, who should be free to carry out their work without fear or threat of violence," he said.
Police officers and fire crews attended the scene.
A spokesman for the PSNI appealed for information about the attack.