Thousands without water as burst pipes follow deep freeze
Thousands of properties in south east England remain without water, after a thaw resulted in multiple burst pipes across the region.
Householders and businesses are having to use bottled water while pipes undergo work to fix leaks and repair bursts amid milder conditions which followed the deep freeze of last week.
Thames Water, which has customers across London and Thames Valley, said somewhere under 10,000 properties are affected, while Affinity Water which serves parts of north west London and the home counties, is working to restore full supply to around 1,000 properties experiencing disruptions in the past 48 hours.
Alongside South East Water and Southern Water, the companies have urged customers who do have running water only to use it where essential.
In a joint statement, they said: "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.
"This will make a real difference."
Neither South East Water nor Thames Water, which said the worst affected areas for its customers were Streatham and Hampstead, could say when supplies would be back to normal.
A number of schools could not open on Monday due to water issues.
Ravenstone Primary school in Balham tweeted: "Unfortunately due to a range of water issues we are having to close the school tomorrow."
Thames Water said it had temporarily run out of water at two of its four locations in London, and some people have complained that they have had difficulty getting to the water stations.
A woman named Adele tweeted: "Had a knee reconstruction on Friday so can't exactly just pop over to Homebase but now without water for more than 12 hours..."
Local councillor Scott Ainslie criticised Thames Water, calling on them to "start reinvesting in the pipework".
He added: "The country can't slow down every time the temperature falls below zero for a few days.
"They can't get away with a feeble excuse that it's exceptional weather - I think the worst it got to was minus six in London, we've had minus six before."
The councillor, who described Streatham High Road as a "ghost town" with many businesses forced to close at the weekend and on Monday, said he hoped to meet an official from the company once the current problems are fixed.
It follows criticism from Environment Minister Michael Gove last week, who warned water firms to clean up their act or face tougher regulation.
He told company bosses they had not been acting "in the public interest", accusing some of "playing the system for the benefit of wealthy managers and owners".
A spokeswoman for Thames Water said they were "grateful" to those who had heeded their low usage warning and asked for continued co-operation from customers.
"We're sorry to all those customers who are without water. We know how infuriating this is and want to assure them that the whole company is working flat out to fix the problems."
Meanwhile, the military is helping to take emergency supplies - including food and fuel - to parts of Cumbria which have been left isolated following heavy snowfall that blocked roads.
Most parts of the UK are thawing out, the Met Office said, after the barrage of snow that hit the country last week.
As temperatures rise above freezing elsewhere, eastern parts of Scotland remain subject to a snow warning, meteorologist Martin Bowles said.
He said while the thaw in the south east has been quick, the rapid rise in temperature is not unusual.
"It's fairly quick but usually when you get a cold spell it will go up by 5 or 10 degrees in one or two days," he said.
There are currently 15 flood alerts in place, mainly in the south west and east of England.
A timber firm in East Sussex suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage after a pipe burst, a woman from the company said.
Trudy Holman tweeted: "Sussex Timber Products Ltd in Crowborough burst pipe causing thousands of pounds of damage spent from early hours sat morning till sunday mid day pulling down ceilings and pulling out kitchens and carpets ruined new doors all been newly refurbished."
Temperatures rose over the weekend after the Beast from the East and Storm Emma brought a deep cold snap during last week, which saw the first day of meteorological spring.
Following a low of -5.6C (21.92F) in London last week, the mercury is predicted to hit 11C (52F) in the capital on Monday.