Be'er Sheva Left Without Running Water for Hours

Tens of thousands of Be'er Sheva residents left without running water for hours, following the rupture of a water main earlier this week.

Tens of thousands of Be'er Sheva residents were left without running water on Wednesday for hours, as shortages continued following the rupture of a water main earlier this week.

The water main burst on a site close to the university campus late Sunday night. It was damaged during the course of railroad work.

The municipality distributed water cisterns to residents, while the city's Soroka Medical Center had to tap into its emergency reservoirs and Ben-Gurion University students were forced to shower in the campus gym.

"My children didn't shower yesterday, so came here [to one of the cisterns distributed by the city] to wash their faces a little and let them drink some water," said one resident, Sara. "We have absolutely no water in the apartment, either to drink or to bathe. It's an intolerable situation and I hope they resolve it quickly so we don't have to come up here to drink tomorrow as well."

"It's just shameful that in 2010, students have to shower on campus rather than at home," one Ben-Gurion University student complained.

The water main rupture also led to electricity blackouts in Be'er Sheva's Aleph, Bet, Gimel and Dalet neighborhoods, along Hebron Road, and in the city center. The municipal water company, Mei Sheva, was working alongside the Israel Electric Corporation to fix the damaged main.

"Right now we're not looking for someone to blame," said Mei Sheva's director-general, Ilan Shomrat. "We're working to restore regular water supply to residents and fix the broken main, and we hope to have running water back by tomorrow morning."

Sources at Mei Sheva told Haaretz that it was unclear why the workers were digging some 10 meters away from the site where they were supposed to be working.

Israel Railways said on Wednesday that it had all the required permits to carry out the infrastructure work, and that the subsequently damaged pipes did not appear anywhere on the map.

"The municipality itself didn't know the pipe was there, and although this wasn't our responsibility, we instructed one of our contractors to fix the main," the company said in a statement.

By press time, residents told Haaretz that running water had been restored to most houses, but at a very low pressure.