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Many Sheppey residents still without water

Scores of Sheppey residents have woken up to a second morning without water.

While most of the Island has had its supply restored, a number of people in Minster, Leysdown, Eastchurch and Warden Bay are still seeing their taps run dry.

In a statement released by Southern Water this morning, the company said it has now managed to install two mains pumps under the A249 between Sheerness and Bobbing, which will restore water flow.

People queuing for bottles of water last night as their supply remained cut off
People queuing for bottles of water last night as their supply remained cut off

But it added the process is a slow one as it tries to avoid any further damage to the pipe, meaning some households will be connected later than others.

It further said: "Because the mains have been drained to carry out the repairs there may be some discolouration to the water initially. The water is safe to drink."

The company added bottled water supplies are still available in the Morrisons carpark in Neats Court, Queenborough.

Warden Bay resident Tony Catchpole said this morning: "We have now been without water for near on 24 hours and still nothing. This situation is now intolerable.

"I managed to buy some water yesterday afternoon from ASDA in Sittingbourne, with my brother primarily in mind as he is disabled.

"Someone has just informed me that there is a small Southern Water van dropping bottled water off. However, bearing in mind the population around Warden, the amount there won't last long."

Last night, Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson said he will write to the managing director of Southern Water to express his "anger and frustration" at how the situation has been handled.

He added: "I am particularly angry about the way in which drinking water has been distributed to those people in need, or rather the way in which it was not distributed.

"It was all very well arranging for water to be available at Morrisons, but what about those people in the east end of the Island who had no means of getting to Neats Court, or the elderly or disabled who are unable to get out of their home?"

A further sinkhole was discovered on the A249 yesterday, which will not open this weekend, or possibly for several days to come.

It was discovered in the embankment near to the burst water main, according to Southern Water.

This is being inspected by specialist geotechnical engineers, and it means the A249 will not be re-opened this weekend even though the flood across the carriageways has now stopped.

A tanker arrives to replenish water supplies
A tanker arrives to replenish water supplies

The company said a separate burst on a much smaller pipe in Harps Avenue, Minster, was fixed earlier today, but customers affected by that incident may still be affected.

It will, however, take time for the supplies to filter through the entire system and for water pressure to return to normal.

It has been a frustrating two days for people across the area with more than 1,000 homes affected by the problem and several schools closed.

Areas of Minster, Eastchurch, Leysdown, Warden and Halfway have been hit from early yesterday morning.

A fleet of tankers and lorries have been filling up the Southern Water reservoir at Chequers in Minster, with 30 tonnes of water at a time with a team of drivers working flat out.

Staff were also distributing bottled water to residents. Water levels at the water tower dipped at about 6am yesterday and officials said they were hoping to get levels back to normal by 3pm.

A massive load of bottled water was also sent to the Morrisons store at Neats Court, Queenborough, for those needing supplies.

Minster Primary School and St George’s School Primary were forced to close along with Eastchurch Primary School's two sites in Eastchurch and Leysdown.

Head teacher Michelle Crowe: "We closed because we were concerned our own water supply wouldn't be able to cope with the demand.

Tankers have been delivering water
Tankers have been delivering water

"Our parents reacted very well. We want to thank them for how they have been co-operating with us.

"We sent a text to parents at 9.45am. We sent a message to all teachers who stayed on site until the children left. Staff also sent text messages to parents and posted information on Facebook pages."

The school's nursery was also closed. The Oasis Academy campus in Minster Road, Minster, closed from lunchtime, affecting around 1,000 pupils.

Staff said they were trying to send youngsters home, but those unable to make it alone were being looked after on site. The Sheerness site remained open as normal.

Southern Water initially said yesterday morning's water shortage was caused by a second burst main in Harps Avenue, Minster, discovered at 5am. It was later repaired.

John Lumsdon, left, and Russell Welch with water being taken to residents
John Lumsdon, left, and Russell Welch with water being taken to residents

Water bosses later admitted the problems in Eastchurch and Warden Bay were related to the burst main on the Sheppey-bound A249.

The carriageway was closed on Monday night after water from the damaged 18-inch main poured onto the road at Bobbing, resulting in miles of daily traffic tailbacks. It's now emerged the A249 could remain closed well into next week.

Southern Water's contractors have been working to repair the damage. The Sheppey-bound carriageway has been shut off between Key Street and Bobbing while it goes ahead.

Its work is due to be completed by Sunday but once the water company has finished on site, Highways England has to check whether the leak has damaged the road.

The Chequers Water Tower
The Chequers Water Tower

Howard Fisher, head teacher of St George's Primary School in Chequers Road, said he had no choice but to close the school.

"There's no water. Unfortunately, we cannot stay open because we cannot flush toilets or cook. You really don't want 450 kids with no toilet.

"We found out because a number of parents started phoning because they said they were losing water. We have back up tanks but they ran dry fairly quickly.

"We have lots of procedures in place - we're used to it because of snow days. It's a bad time to close. We didn't find out until about 8am."

Minster Parish Council was advised that anyone without water who considers themselves to be vulnerable or a priority case that requires urgent assistance should contact Southern Water.

Southern Water engineers worked round the clock
Southern Water engineers worked round the clock

They can call 0330 3030368, select option two and quote reference number 3632504. Costcutter, in Minster Road, confirmed it has had a rush of people buying bottled water.

Cashier Sally Mills said: "We've got water but we've got a lot of people from Harp's Avenue coming in and buying bottles of water. The elderly are especially affected by what we see here."

Linda Dunnett, landlady at the Kings Arms, High Street, Minster, said: "The water was off from when we got up this morning.

A Southern Water incident van
A Southern Water incident van

"I'm probably not going to be able to open because customers can't use the toilets and we can't wash any glasses. We could be majorly out of pocket if this goes on much longer."

A Southern Water official later added: “We would like to apologise to customers in the Eastchurch area who may be experiencing water-loss.

"This is related to the Monday's burst main along the A249 between Sheerness and Bobbing.

Southern Water's work on the burst water main near the A249
Southern Water's work on the burst water main near the A249

Speaking about putting supplies back through the repaired section, a Southern Water spokesman said: "This has to be done slowly to avoid any further damage to the pipe and means that some customers will receive their water back later than others.

"We are currently modelling how the area will return to supply and will update customers with this information via our website and the media as soon as we can.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience this disruption has caused customers and are working as hard as we can to ensure supplies are returned to everyone as soon as possible.

"A separate burst on a much smaller pipe in Harps Avenue, Minster, was fixed earlier today however the customers affected by that incident may still be affected."

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