TNBD/AFP) - Tens of thousands of residents in Jackson, the capital of the southern US state of Mississippi, were stuck without running water Wednesday, after frozen pipes burst following a monster winter storm that hit most of the country over the holidays.
It was the third major water crisis in less than two years to befall this city of some 150,000 people, most of whom are African American, prompting political debate over racial disparity in access to vital infrastructure.
Leaks in burst pipes have caused pressure to drop in the city's water system, paralyzing supply in most neighborhoods, local officials said, adding that workers are struggling to locate many of the leaks.
A state of emergency has been declared and residents have been urged to consume only boiled water to avoid getting sick.
"We are dealing with the worst-case scenario," Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said during a press conference Tuesday.
"Staff continues to search for large leaks and breaks, but not all could be found to this point," he added. "We are dealing with an old and crumbling system that continues to offer challenge after challenge."
Jackson spent nearly a month without water after a cold spell in early 2021. And this summer, major flooding caused the city's water treatment plant to shut down, leaving residents without access to safe drinking water for some two months.
In November, the Justice Department appointed an administrator to oversee the water system. Earlier this month, Congress allocated $600 million in federal funds to renovate Jackson's infrastructure.
In the meantime, several drinking water distribution sites were opened in the city this week as frustration has grown among local residents.
"I appreciate the help of the city giving us water, but it can only last so long," Michael Broom, 34, told local newspaper The Clarion-Ledger.
Similar problems have been reported in other parts of the southern United States, where infrastructure has not been designed to cope with the extreme temperatures experienced over the Christmas holidays.
The situation was slowly returning to normal on Wednesday in Shreveport, Louisiana and Florence, South Carolina, but some residents of Asheville, North Carolina remained without drinking water.