Thousands left without water as pipes burst

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Thousands of people in some of the wettest corners of Britain were left without water yesterday as a result of severe leaks caused by the thawing of ice in burst pipes.

Thousands of people in some of the wettest corners of Britain were left without water yesterday as a result of severe leaks caused by the thawing of ice in burst pipes.

Water companies in Scotland and Northern Ireland were forced to carry out emergency repairs to broken pipes and bring in extra supplies for customers as the cold spell continued to wreak havoc.

More than 6,000 residents in Dumfries and rural Ayrshire were among the worst hit when West of Scotland Water cut off supplies and brought in bottled water and tankers instead.

Customers in six villages and their surrounding areas were given letters explaining why a region with one of the highest annual rainfalls in the land had run dry. Each household was given six bottles of water to see it through the day and 24 water tankers were sent to service isolated properties as engineers worked to restore supplies, a West of Scotland Water spokesman said.

"We apologise to customers and hope they will understand that this measure has had to be taken because of the exceptional problems facing the authority," he said. "We appeal to customers to conserve water wherever possible to allow us to try to ensure as normal a service as possible."

The water tankers were placed in the Ayrshire villages of Patna, Waterside, Drongan, Coalhall, Stair and Sinclairston. Supplies in parts of Galloway and Argyll were also affected.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Regional Development's water service said that 2,000 homes had lost their supplies due to pipe bursts.

Repairs had been carried out by yesterday afternoon on 75 per cent of the 180 mains damaged by the cold spell but several hundred leaks from pipes to private properties still needed to be plugged, it said.

The problems, which came after nearly a week of heavy snow and freezing temperatures in Scotland and Northern Ireland, were caused by ice in burst pipes beginning to thaw, water companies said.

The subsequent flow of water from pipes in businesses, homes and parts of the mains network caused a loss of pressure and the cutting off of supplies.

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