Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Water cuts off 40,000 homes overnight

An employee of Northern Ireland Water fills plastic containers for members of the public outside the company's headquarters in North Belfast on 31 December 2010
Image caption NI Water said it would be "at least three or four more days" before everyone was reconnected

Water supply has again been disrupted to thousands of homes in Northern Ireland overnight.

About 40,000 properties in NI Water's eastern region had mains water supplies temporarily cut off overnight.

Supplies were due to be restored at 0800GMT, although NI Water said it could take up to three hours for it to reach all customers.

The UUP leader Tom Elliott said the minister responsible for NI Water, Conor Murphy, should resign.

The company said on Sunday night that the number of homes without running water had fallen to just under 1,000.

Thousands were left without supplies over the Christmas break because of burst pipes, caused by the thaw after freezing conditions.

Dozens of schools may be unable to re-open due to water damage.

The Department of Education said it would consult with the education boards on Monday and publish a list of those schools affected.

More disruption

Even customers not affected by burst pipes had their water supplies cut off overnight to allow reservoirs to be replenished.

A full list of areas where the water supply has been turned off is available on the NI Water website, along with a list of locations where temporary water supplies have been set up.

The main affected areas are parts of Cookstown, Dungannon, Newry and Warrenpoint, and some 500 NI Water staff are dealing with those properties.

State-owned NI Water, which is the sole provider of water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland, said it would be "at least three or four more days" before everyone was reconnected.

Arctic weather conditions, followed by a sudden thaw, caused large numbers of burst pipes in buildings and in the mains supply, draining unprecedented amounts of water from the system.

Some people have been without running water for almost two weeks.

While NI Water has responsibility for leaking pipes in the main system, its responsibility ends when the supply enters properties.

However, many of the leaks are understood to be within unoccupied homes and businesses, and the company has urged customers to check their properties and have the pipes repaired as soon as possible.

Bill Gowdy, from the water company, said: "We do urge owners of properties, of vacant properties, of outbuildings, please go and check to see if there's any leaks because there's a significant number of leaks on private property."

NI Water has again warned that bogus callers are taking advantage of the crisis.

The company is urging householders approached by people wanting to examine their property for leaks to thoroughly check their identity.

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