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Thousands of homes are still without water as shortage crisis continues

By Chloe Holmwood

Thousands of homes across the south east are still without water because of burst pipes caused by last week's freezing temperatures.

Supplies have been restored to 12,000 homes, but 5,000 customers in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire still have difficulties.

In Kent alone, around 1,000 homes have no supplies in the Charing, Challock and Molash areas - and South East Water expects this to rise as engineers work to repair the network.

A bottled water station was set up in Lenham
A bottled water station was set up in Lenham

Bottled water is being given out at Challock village green.

Technicians are continuing to carry out tests to find the large number of leaks across its 9,000-mile network of pipelines.

South East Water’s operations director Dr Simon Earl said: “We have found and fixed more than 70 bursts and are currently working to repair more than 100 others. We have drafted in extra staff who are working around the clock to locate and repair leaks across our network. On an average day we find and fix between eight and 10 leaks.

“We will continue working around the clock to do everything we can to restore supplies to customers who are still without water. We are very sorry and know this is a difficult time for those customers who have been without tap water for some time.

“Our specialist Customer Care Team is working alongside staff volunteers to deliver bottled water direct to those customers on our priority services register who have health and mobility issues.

“I would also like to thank those local community groups and councils who have rallied around with Dunkirk spirit to help us get water to those vulnerable residents unable to get to our bottled water stations.”

Simon continued: “We would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding. We are putting as much water into the system as we can and will continue to test pipelines in the areas still without water.”

South East Water said it had been able to reconnect 8,700 customers across Kent and Sussex overnight as it continued to find and fix pipes, which ruptured due to ground movement when temperatures went well below freezing last week then increased rapidly.

So far, 71 leaks have been repaired and a further 100 identified. South East Water usually deals with eight to 10 bursts a day.

Douglas Whitfield, incident manager, said teams had managed to get water back to customers in parts of Kent and Sussex during the night.

He said: "In Kent the areas of Challock and Molash are currently without water, however we're working hard to restore supplies here as soon as possible.

"We know it's really hard for our customers who have been without water for some time now and we are very sorry.

"We are working as hard and as quickly as we can to get the network up and running again."

People queued outside Sittingbourne's Aldi for bottled water yesterday. Picture: Amy Gambrill
People queued outside Sittingbourne's Aldi for bottled water yesterday. Picture: Amy Gambrill

Mr Whitfield added: "The situation is changing quite fast and we will continue to work around the clock until all supplies have been restored.

"We want to thank customers for their patience. We know it's very disruptive to be without water and we are doing our very best to get everyone back up and running as soon as we can."

The 5,000 homes in Sittingbourne and 7,000 homes in Lenham, which had been without water since Sunday afternoon, were reconnected yesterday.

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