The Maldives, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, has run out of water. A popular tourist destination surrounded by pristine seas and turquoise-blue ocean vistas, the archipelago has declared a state of emergency after a fire at its only desalination plant led to the shortage that has affected the 130,000 inhabitants of the capital, Male.
Residents of Male are receiving bottled and desalinated water provided by neighboring countries via public taps and mobile vehicles, according to a statement issued by the United Nations on Monday.
The water crisis, which began on Dec. 4, has angered local residents, who attacked shops that rationed mineral water. Hotels in the island group said their supplies were running out.
India, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka rushed to airlift bottled water and provide aid to the thirsty nation as the taps ran dry. Syed Akbaruddin, India's Foreign Ministry spokesman, on Friday said his government was sending five aircraft with water and two ships with parts that could help fix the machinery at the plant.
On Saturday, government of the Maldives said it would distribute water free of charge to about 120,000 residents, including thousands of expatriate workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and other countries following reports that the laborers were being denied water at some distribution centers.
But on Monday the plant was not yet repaired and the water shortage continued. The Male Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) decided it would implement a 30 percent discount on water transactions for December, Maldives news website Minivan News reported. Authorities in Male declined to say when the water services would be restored, according to Minivan.
The Maldives, a group of 1,190 coral islands southwest of India, is visited by more than 750,000 tourists each year. The country has a population of about 400,000.
Al Jazeera and wire services