Water chaos leads to resignation call

Heads should roll at the failed water company which has left thousands of people in Northern Ireland cut off, the deputy First Minister said last night.

Martin McGuinness warned people needed to be held accountable after pregnant mothers, families with young children and the elderly were left without water for days.

Although the situation is improving, Northern Ireland Water said it could be next week before some remote areas are fixed.

Mr McGuinness said: "There has to be accountability and we are not going to, under those circumstances, stand here and make excuses for a body that has so miserably failed our citizens."

The province's ministerial Executive met at Stormont yesterday to discuss an emergency which has left reservoirs low and tens of thousands of homes without water as NIW rotates service to conserve supplies.

The company has blamed much of the leakage on private businesses that have not been checked following this month's unprecedented cold spell.

But the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy said work would continue to bring the arms-length body back into central government and there will be a review to try and ensure a repeat does not happen.

Extra staff have been drafted in to run call centres and extra tankers and engineers could also be on their way to Northern Ireland.

About 6,000 customers have had no water since December 27. A further 3,500 to 60,000 have interrupted supplies for up to eight hours as they are rotated between areas.

NIW hoped to restore supplies in south Belfast last night after a main reservoir experienced difficulties.

The company has increased the supply of water to customers to the highest level ever, increasing from 600 million litres per day to 850 million litres per day.

This increase in demand is largely because of leakage from bursts on private properties.

On one property, NIW located a burst pipe which was draining 2.5 million litres from the system, the equivalent of the water supply for between 2,000 and 3,000 homes.