05/03/2018 10:48 GMT | Updated 05/03/2018 12:43 GMT

Water Problems Leave Thousands In 'Unhygienic' Conditions Across London And UK

'We can’t use the toilet, we can’t wash our hands, we can’t have drinking water.'

Thousands of residents across the capital woke on Monday to find they were still without water, as engineers rushed to fix burst pipes and leaks following last week’s extreme weather.

Some schools in London have been forced to close today after water companies said they were witnessing “exceptionally high levels of demand”.

At the peak of the disruption, 20,000 homes were without water on Sunday.

PA Wire/PA Images
Thames Water workers help distribute bottled water, at a bottled water station in Hampstead, north London.

Households across London and the South East are being asked to use as little water as possible. Residents have started to share stories of misery as they remain unable to flush toilets and shower in their own homes.

Rebecca Hill, who lives in Harringay, has been without water for four days.

She said she was told on Friday that the problem was due to internal plumbing, but after speaking to neighbours she realised it was part of a much wider problem.

“On Saturday and Sunday we had no water whatsoever. So we can’t use the toilet, we can’t wash our hands, we can’t have drinking water, we can’t wash,” the 27-year-old told HuffPost UK.

“Everyone is struggling. We’re quite lucky because we’ve got friends nearby where we can go and use their shower but there are elderly people living on our road who might not have that availability.”

She added: “There are people who are on their fourth day of not being able to use the loo or wash their hands, and I think that is incredibly unhygienic.”

Carol Ferrary lives in Chigwell in a block of flats and has been without water since Friday. 

“On Friday we had no water and we had to use our reserve tanks on the roof,” she told HuffPost UK.

“On Saturday there was no water in any tap, we couldn’t flush the toilet and it’s exactly the same today.”

Ferrary said that she is particularly concerned about the elderly people living in her bock of flats and said that water should be delivered to those unable to collect from the distribution centres.

“I’m the youngest and there’s people in their 80s and 90s and a lot of disabled people and we need water delivered because they can’t get out,” she added.

In a joint statement, Thames Water, South East Water, Southern Water and Affinity Water asked customers not to use water “for anything that isn’t essential”, and where possible “take short showers rather than baths, do not leave taps running unnecessarily and only run washing machines and dish washers when you have a full load”.

Distribution sites, including schools, have been set up across London for residents to collect bottled water. The Midlands, Wales and Scotland were also affected.

Donna Wright, who was queuing for water in Streatham, told Sky News: “No one’s got any water and I’ve gone and coloured my hair and I can’t rinse it out.

“You can’t flush the toilet, you can’t get a bath, it’s really quite uncomfortable.” 

Some schools in the capital have said they will be closed today because they cannot guarantee running water. 

Customers are also urged to check their pipes for bursts and to call a plumber if necessary.

The statement said:

Following the recent freeze and rapid thaw, water companies across London and the South East of England are experiencing exceptionally high levels of demand for water due to multiple bursts on networks and an increase in leaks in and on customer properties.  

So they are asking their customers who have water to use as little as possible while they get things back to normal. Not all areas are affected equally, but significant numbers of customers are currently without water or have low pressure.  

We are putting as much extra water as we can into our local networks and fixing leaks and bursts as quickly as possible. We sincerely apologise to all those who are currently without water or experiencing low pressure. Right now we really need all our customers’ support and understanding to help us rebuild supplies in our networks for everyone as quickly as possible.