Tens of thousands facing Christmas without water after pipes burst
Thousands of homes in southeast England are at risk of spending Christmas without running water after freezing temperatures caused pipes to burst.
Water companies are working to reconnect households in large parts of Sussex, Kent and Hampshire before the holiday weekend.
Firms said the rapid thaw of frozen pipes had increased the number of bursts and leaks, causing storage reservoir levels to drop following the sub-zero temperatures.
South East Water said it is “committed to getting its customers who are currently without water back in supply by Christmas Day if not sooner”.
The firm said there was a 300% increase in the number of bursts, and chief executive David Hinton told BBC South East Today about 5,000 properties were still affected on Wednesday.
Southern Water said in a statement: “We are currently facing significant pressure on our water supply in parts of Hampshire, caused by a combination of factors including leaks resulting from the recent ‘freeze/thaw’ event.
“This has meant demand for water is outstripping the ability of our water treatment sites to keep taps running.
“We are working as hard as we can to solve this issue, tackling leaks and stabilising supply, but we must also make difficult decisions to reduce demand – in order to protect critical Hampshire infrastructure like hospitals.
“This is why we unfortunately have to restrict water supplies to some customers in parts of Hampshire, for a period of at least 48 hours.”
Both water companies apologised for the disruption.
Emergency supplies of bottled water have been delivered to towns and villages.
Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, tweeted: “I’ve asked Southern Water to set up a bottled water station in Southampton – not acceptable that the closest one is the park and ride at Winchester.”
Mr Hinton said in a statement: “Our teams are working flat out to find, fix and repair the leaks on our pipes but we’re asking customers to help too by checking their homes, businesses, empty properties, outside taps and troughs in any fields for leaks and get them repaired as soon as possible.
“Leaks within properties can cause extensive damage which can be costly to repair.”
The news comes just days after burst pipe in north London forced several homes to be evacuated.
A 42-inch water main burst overnight on Saturday unleashing flooding half a metre deep across an area of around 800 metres.
Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters were called to Belsize Road in the London Borough of Camden at around 3am on Saturday morning.
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