Belfast Telegraph

Water shortage pushes Northern Ireland to brink of health crisis

People wait in line at Avoniel leisure centre in east Belfast with empty bottles to get drinking water December 29, 2010.
People wait in line at Avoniel leisure centre in east Belfast with empty bottles to get drinking water December 29, 2010.
12 year old Karl Barr from County Antrim loading his family car with the last few crates of bottled water at NI Water in Ballymena
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Bottles of water are filled up outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Bottles of water are filled up outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10Kelly and Anne Marie Murphy fill up Bottles of water outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Bowsers are filled up outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out, They will be brought to 5 sites across Belfast so people can get water Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Bowsers are filled up outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out, They will be brought to 5 sites across Belfast so people can get water Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Water storage units have run out at Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Tempers flare as families queue for the last few crates of bottled water at NI Water in Ballymena
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28/12/2010Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanFamilies queueing for the last few crates of bottled water at NI Water in Ballymena today. NI Water in Ballymena ran out of bottled water after lunchtime today. The thaw is revealing an unprecedented number of burst water pipes.Thousands of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are still without water on Tuesday.Northern Ireland Water has said it is dealing with interruptions to supplies across a number of areas as a result of the severe weather and ongoing thaw.An unprecedented number of leaks caused by the thaw have been putting "big pressure" on its systems.NI Water is giving out bottled water but there is growing criticism of the company's performance.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28/12/2010Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanFamilies queueing for the last few crates of bottled water at NI Water in Ballymena today. NI Water in Ballymena ran out of bottled water after lunchtime today. The thaw is revealing an unprecedented number of burst water pipes.Thousands of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are still without water on Tuesday.Northern Ireland Water has said it is dealing with interruptions to supplies across a number of areas as a result of the severe weather and ongoing thaw.An unprecedented number of leaks caused by the thaw have been putting "big pressure" on its systems.NI Water is giving out bottled water but there is growing criticism of the company's performance.
©Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland 28th December 2010Northern Ireland water office in Portadown are giving away water to residents from the Armagh area who have been without for the last 24 hours..Stephanie Shaw from Armagh collects some water.Picture Stephen Hamilton /Presseye.com
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28/12/2010Mandatory Credit - Picture by Justin KernoghanFamilies queueing for the last few crates of bottled water at NI Water in Ballymena today. NI Water in Ballymena ran out of bottled water after lunchtime today. The thaw is revealing an unprecedented number of burst water pipes.Thousands of homes and businesses in Northern Ireland are still without water on Tuesday.Northern Ireland Water has said it is dealing with interruptions to supplies across a number of areas as a result of the severe weather and ongoing thaw.An unprecedented number of leaks caused by the thaw have been putting "big pressure" on its systems.NI Water is giving out bottled water but there is growing criticism of the company's performance.
Queueing up for water are these Coleraine residents at Captain Street were a five hundered year old fountain flows whole year round.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mrs Janet Doran in tears as she talks to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, after raw sewage had flooded through her home on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mrs Janet Doran, (left), and Mrs May Maye discuss their problems after sewage had flooded through their home on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mrs May Maye's kitchen after raw sewage had flooded through her home on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Maurice Magill explains the problems residents like Mrs May Maye, are facing to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, after raw sewage had flooded through a terrace of homes on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mr Arthur Doran with property destroyed in his home after sewage had flooded through it on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mrs Janet Doran breaks down in tears as she talks to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, after raw sewage had flooded through her home on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Alan Lewis - PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 28-12-2010Mr Arthur Doran with property destroyed in his home after sewage had flooded through it on boxing day at Elmwood Terrace, in Lurgan. The residents of the County Armagh housing estate have expressed anger after the sewage had flooded through their homes saying today that still no-one from NI Water had come to the Shankill estate in Lurgan despite repeated requests for help. Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd said the response had "not been good enough" and added that he would be asking "serious questions" of the company. NI Water has said it is doing as much it can to help those affected by the "unprecedented" problems. The problem at the row of houses at Elmwood Terrace was caused by overflowing drains unable to cope with the thawing ice.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Presseye.com - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th December 2010. Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com - Belfast.General views from NI Waters Westland base as members of the public come to pick up bottles of water.
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Bottles of water are filled up outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Water storage units have run out at Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10Kelly and Anne Marie Murphy fill up Bottles of water outside Westland House in North Belfast after homes across Belfast run out Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Tesco's in Yorkgate sells out of water due to the high demand with homes across North Belfast out of water Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 28/12/10 Tesco's in Yorkgate sells out of water due to the high demand with homes across North Belfast out of water Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Fears are growing that Northern Ireland's water shortage will lead to a public health emergency.



Tens of thousands of homes and businesses are still without supplies as engineers struggle to plug burst pipes. Some families have not had fresh running water for eight days.

Scotland has offered to supply bottled water in a bid to ease the emergency.

Northern Ireland Water (NIW), the company at the centre of the crisis, said it was unable to say when supplies would be fully restored.

Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy is having talks with officials later today to consider ongoing operations and the sort of swift action needed to deal with the situation.

More bottled water was due to be distributed in various parts of Belfast, one of the areas hardest hit. Arrangements were also being made to have tankers strategically placed across the province to help families, many of whom have been unable to use toilet facilities since before Christmas.

Leisure centres in the city as well as others in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, Antrim, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, and Newry, Co Down, were among those which opened to provide washing and showering facilities.

NIW today faced more widespread public anger over the company's lack of contingency plans and its abysmal failure to provide adequate and up-to-date information.

But with the onset of a winter vomiting bug, some doctors warned the crisis could quickly develop into a major health issue, especially among the elderly.

Dr Peter Maguire, a GP in Newry, said: "This is really now a public health emergency.

"Northern Ireland Water has been shambolic in their response.

"People with young families have not been able to flush toilets and wash themselves, never mind get access to drinking water.

"It's just not good enough. What's happening is really not acceptable."

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