Donetsk queues as water shutt off

2014-08-18 18:59
A building damaged by shelling is seen in Mikolaivka village, near the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

A building damaged by shelling is seen in Mikolaivka village, near the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

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Donetsk - Anastasiya clutches two empty five-litre bottles as she joins a queue of Donetsk residents buying water in the rebel-held east Ukrainian city where supplies were abruptly cut off by shelling damage.

"We hope it's not for long," says the 32-year-old as she waits for her turn to fill the bottles with mineral water sold at one of many stalls around the city for $.06 a litre.

She says she saw the urgent message from the Donetsk mayor on Sunday evening warning of the shut-off one hour in advance, but complained that her own tap had already run dry.

"We didn't have time to draw any water. I found out at 20:00 and there was already no water."

A bustling city of one million before becoming gripped by fighting, Donetsk is now a victim of clashes between pro-Russian insurgents and Kiev's army closing in on the rebel-controlled hub.

The city warned residents that water would be turned off Sunday at 21:00, saying the shelling had damaged a powerline feeding the main Donetsk water filtering station, urging everyone to stock up.

City authorities said they were trying to "urgently" organise delivery by cisterns and asked those with water wells to share with neighbours, but by Monday evening the city council only announced that non-potable water was being handed out in seven city districts.

Lyubov, a pensioner waiting in line to buy water, says in Donetsk most people only have access to water through the faucet. "Within the city there are no wells, this is a city, it's civilisation," she tells AFP

Around 40 people carrying five-litre plastic bottles waited to fill them in the densely-populated Kalininsky district northeast of the centre.

The rebel government's press service said it would "do everything possible to transfer water supply to another filtration plant and not leave Donetsk people without water."

The city encircled by Ukraine's army is now largely deserted in the centre where the wealthier residents live, but many less well-heeled residents are staying on in other districts, saying they have nowhere else to go.

Store rush for water

Standing with Lyubov with two bottles in her wheeled shopping bag, another pensioner Lyudmila says the city must find a solution.

"They can't switch off the whole city," she says, but adds that the authorities might have to find someone to repair the pumping station "under bullets."

Most Donetsk residents live in Soviet-era apartment blocks, while the rest reside in small private houses that are connected to mains water.

In a large supermarket in the Kalininsky district, customers had swept up all the five-litre bottles.

"There was a bit of a rush on them," says a female member of staff, who declined to give her name. "We stocked up on water of course. The rush was in the evening when they announced it on television. We won't leave people without water."

One customer was filling his trolley with six-packs of bottles of fizzy water. "Just in case," he says.

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine

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