Members of the fire service fill tanks with water as people queue with empty bottles to collect water, as tens of thousands of homes and businesses are affected by severe water shortages caused by broken pipes, outside Avoniel leisure center in east Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. Frustration and fear of disease mounted in Northern Ireland Wednesday as tens of thousands of people coped with a severe water shortage after much of the supply drained away through broken pipes following a deep freeze and a sudden thaw. (AP Photo/PA, Paul Faith) UNITED KINGDOM OUT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE (Paul Faith – AP)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Frustration and fears of disease mounted in Northern Ireland on Wednesday as 36,000 people were left without water, some for more than a week, after a deep freeze and a sudden thaw caused aging pipes to burst.
With reservoirs running low, water supplies were cut off in many towns and cities, and residents turned to emergency water tankers and bottled water for their cooking, cleaning and drinking needs.
Scotland said it was sending 160,000 liters (42,000 gallons) of bottled water to help meet demand.
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, called the situation “a grave crisis,” and said people had been let down by their water supplier.
The Northern Ireland government scheduled an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss the crisis.
Doctors warned of potential disease outbreaks if water was not restored, but officials said it would take several days or more to bring back all service.