Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed, Ismail Humaam Hamid, and Ahmed Naish
An Indian aircraft has landed in the Maldives capital Malé to alleviate in the continuing water crisis, as the government reveals it could take between three and five days to restore the capital’s water supply.
The first flight landed at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 1:15pm, with two additional flights expected to bring a total of 100 tonnes of fresh water for the people 130,000 inhabitants of the Maldives’ capital.
Minister of Defence Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim has announced that damage to the Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s (MWSC) reverse osmosis plant could mean it is five days before normal service can be resumed.
The capital has been without water for 24 hours after a fire at the MWSC caused extensive damage to the reverse osmosis plant, upon which the capital is dependent for desalinated water.
Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to do all he can to help the Maldives, after pleas from her Maldivian counterpart.
Ms Dunya Maumoon Foreign Minister of Maldives spoke to me last night that there was urgent need of drinking water in Maldives
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) December 5, 2014
A statement from the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs this afternoon has stated tha India, Sri Lanka, the USA and China have pledged assistance.
As well as the flight from India, two Indian ships with desalinating capabilities and one from the US naval vessel are headed to the Maldives, while water is being brought on every flight from Sri Lanka, explained the ministry.
“The president, the people and the foreign minister of Maldives expresses their gratitude to all nations assisting the Maldives is these harsh times,” read the statement.
The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has confirmed that INS Sukanya will arrive in Malé tonight, equipped with two reverse osmosis plants in order to produce water “round the clock”.
“Mindful of the strong friendly and close relations between India and Maldives, India reacted with alacrity and promptness to the request from Maldives for timely provision of water,” said the high commission, revealing that the second flight in expected at 3:40pm.
Large queues quickly formed outside shops yesterday evening as the demand for bottled water prompted the government to declare the situation a disaster, with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) giving water away at ten designated distribution points.
Home Minister Umar Naseer has said that current reserves have been exhausted, with more fresh water expected from MWSC at 6pm today.
Nazim told the press that authorities were confident supply could be resumed for one in every six hours, while the MNDF has told Haveeru that over 77,000 litres had been brought from water plants in Hulhumalé, Thilafushi, and Thulusdhoo.
After reports that some shops had drastically increased the price of bottled water, the Ministry of Economic Development is said to have warned of severe consequences for retailers hiking prices.
Though some unrest was reported in one store early yesterday evening, police have said no additional incidents were reported overnight, though rumours of some of the capital’s foreign workers being ejected from water lines have spread.
Both the home minister and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb have issued tweets saying that water will be distributed to all without discrimination.
Accord to task force ,Expats can also join queues and get water , pls inform them , mobile lorries are targeted to restaurants & Expats too
— Ahmed Adeeb (@Ahmed_Adeeb) December 5, 201
Former President and Leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has called upon Maldivians to stay calm until the crisis passes. President Abdulla Yameen – currently out of the country on unofficial business – has not yet commented on the situation.
Despite an announcement that water supply would be resumed between 8 and 9pm yesterday evening, the only rain many residents received came in the form of heavy downpour just after 8pm.
As many rushed to collect rainwater – prompting reports of a rush on the sale of buckets – the Health Protection Authority (HPA) has urged caution.
“We request all Malé citizens to take extreme caution when collecting and drinking rain water. All sorts of impurities will be present in water overflow water in roofs. Ensure the water is safe to drink by boiling the water,” Haveeru reported a HPA statement as reading.
The home minister – part of a task force of ministers assigned to deal with the problem – has this morning shared pictures of replacement parts being taken to the MWSC, stating that Singapore’s Hitachi company will assist with the repairs.
A new panel on its way. pic.twitter.com/9aruMP0kym
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) December 5, 2014
Water shortages have become increasingly common in outlying parts of the Maldives, with low-lying islands unable to rely on contaminated ground water supplies.
The crowded capital has long relied on desalinated water, with well-water in the capital unfit for consumption and only utilised for the flushing of toilets in a small number of residences.
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