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Scotland helps to ease water crisis

Scotland is providing 160,000 litres of water in a bid to ease the drinking water crisis.

The Stormont Executive has accepted the offer of aid by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

Ten of thousands of families have been affected by the emergency, with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness due to chair a special meeting of the executive in Belfast on Thursday.

Northern Ireland Water, the company at the centre of the crisis, has been heavily criticised for its response, which left many homes without water since before Christmas.

A statement by Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said: "NI Water's response was clearly inadequate and we are now looking urgently at what further measures can be taken to alleviate the problems people are facing.

"At our request, officials spoke overnight to NI Water and we have now sent civil service staff to provide support in their call centre. We have also asked the head of the Civil Service to continue to work with the Civil Contingencies Group in advance of the Executive to discuss the emergency response. As priority we have asked that group to look at how communication to the public can be improved.

"Clearly we must ensure that the vulnerable and those most at risk are protected. All district councils have invoked their emergency response arrangements and to make their leisure centres available to provide the public with showering facilities.

"They are also working with NI Water to identify suitable sites for water bowsers and water distribution. The majority of councils already have appropriate arrangements in place, with the remainder expected to do so by the end of business today (Wednesday).

"It is also important that we ensure that schools and business which are currently closed for the holidays are ready to open next week.

"We would urge those in charge of properties to check their premises now and if there are leaks, to turn off their mains supply and contact NI Water."