Water companies across the UK have been flooded with calls from customers as the big thaw leaves Britain’s pipes burst and leaking.
Since Christmas Eve alone, United Utilities, which operates in the North West, has been deluged with 40,000 calls reporting problems – 10 times the usual number.
And other companies said the picture has been the same the length and breadth of the country.
The problems have been caused by ice melting following the prolonged cold snap. It can cause the ground to move, putting stress on pipes, causing them to leak or burst.
Above ground, frozen pipework in homes and businesses is beginning to thaw, leading to more leaks.
One problem experienced by all utility companies is customers jamming their lines to report pipes frozen in their homes – but water companies have no responsibility for pipes in people’s houses.
Yorkshire Water, which covers 32,000 kilometres of pipes, doubled their call centre staff to more than 100 to cope with approximately 8,000 calls in December.
A company spokesman said: “It’s been a really, really busy, challenging last four weeks. We are dealing with around 250 bursts across the region and typically we are repairing around 160 leaks a day.”
From mid-December Anglian Water, which covers 13 counties, had “just short of 3,000 bursts”, it said, and has managed to fix two-thirds.
Spokesman John Clare said: “Winter started earlier than we expected but we were prepared with extra staff and kit because of previous bad winters. There has been a 300% increase in work in recent weeks.”