COLOMBO - Drinking water supplies in the Maldives have improved sharply thanks to foreign assistance, a minister said Wednesday, after a fire at a purification plant left taps dry in the holiday destination's capital.
The one-square-mile (two-square-kilometre) island has been without tap water since the fire six days ago at a plant that supplies 120,000 city-dwellers, including thousands of expatriate workers.
Mohamed Hussain Shareef, a minister at the President's Office, said urgently needed spare parts were being flown in from Singapore and added he hoped normal supply would be restored within a week.
"The worst is over," Shareef told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital.
"Indian and Chinese military vessels are in Male producing water and a Bangladesh ship is expected by tomorrow" while a local utility is able to pump water intermittently, he said.
Some 20,000-to-30,000 residents in Male have moved to neighbouring islands of Vilingili and Hulhumale where water supplies have been unaffected.
However, deluxe hotels in Male as well as secluded holiday resorts on the nation's tiny coral islands were unaffected by the shortage as they have their own desalination plants.
Shareef said Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka had rushed bottled water while the United States was sending technical experts.
President Abdulla Yameen cut short a trip to Malaysia and returned home Saturday night to deal with the crisis. He ordered a two-day public holiday to ease the drain on water supplies.
Over one million tourists visit the pristine white-sand beaches of the Maldives annually, but most spend their holidays at the island resorts.
Over one-third of the Maldives' 330,000-strong population live in Male, putting huge pressure on drinking water and electricity, while the 1,192 low-lying coral islands rely heavily on treated sea-water for drinking supplies.