Around 5,200 homes in Northern Ireland remain without water as engineers continued to repair the leaks that crippled the region’s water system.
But while 500 staff battled to restore supply, vandals have been blamed for emptying out almost 5,000 gallons of water from temporary tanks in one of the badly hit areas in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.
People arriving at the bowsers at the Gortgonis Park centre to collect water found that the valves had been opened overnight. The tanks will be replaced later.
Local Assembly member Francie Molloy condemned those responsible.
“Why anyone would open valves knowing it would deprive their own community of water is beyond me,” said the Sinn Fein representative. “It’s absolutely crazy.”
Away from Coalisland, the areas worst affected by the water failures are Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Hannahstown near Belfast and Burren and Warrenpoint in Co Down.
Arctic weather conditions, followed by a sudden thaw, caused large numbers of burst pipes in buildings and in the mains supply, draining unprecedented amounts of water from the system.
A spokesman for Northern Ireland Water (NIW), the much criticised government-owned company responsible for the service, expressed hope more houses would reconnected over the weekend.
Around 12,000 properties have also been on an on/off rotating supply of water in a bid to preserve water levels in reservoirs.
“With an improving situation at reservoirs it is hoped that the rotational cuts which have been necessary in recent days will be reduced in number,” added the NIW spokesman.