Thousands in N.Ireland to start new year without water

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Up to 4,500 homes in Northern Ireland were going into the new year without running water but the shortages which have affected much of the British province improved on Friday.

Some 40,000 homes and businesses were deprived of water supplies at the height of a crisis sparked more than a week ago when a rapid thaw set in after a period of some of the coldest weather on record.

Engineers working around the clock have managed to repair many pipes which cracked in the thaw and re-connected many homes, but the row over who was to blame raged on.

The province's First Minister Peter Robinson has described the local water company's response to the crisis as "shambolic", adding that "there has to be an accountability... and people must assess their positions."

Some politicians have blamed the cracked pipes on a chronic lack of investment in a province which only emerged a decade ago from 30 years of killings and bombings known as The Troubles.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots said three billion pounds (3.5 billion euros, 4.7 billion dollars) had been invested in recent years but said the problem was a "historic issue".

© 2010 AFP

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