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28th July 2022, 23:47

Water restricted overnight across Gibraltar following fire damage at Power's Drive Tunnel, repair works could take two days

As a result of fire and resulting rockfall at Power’s Drive Tunnel, there has been damage to a pipe needed to pump fresh water to Gibraltar’s homes.

This was confirmed by the Acting Chief Minister Joseph Garcia shortly after 11 on Thursday night. Electricity had been cut to this area while the Fire & Rescue Service brought the fire under control. When it was switched back on, there had been electrical damage, but even when the electrics were fixed, the pipe system was still not pumping properly.

Dr Garcia said a new pipe is being laid with work already ongoing for 24 hours by Thursday night. He said “it’s a one-off, temporary situation”.

The Acting Chief Minister - taking charge while Fabian Picardo is away from Gibraltar on holiday - thanked all those who have worked extremely hard in the past 48 hours to ensure the water supply is restored as soon as possible, including the Fire & Rescue Service, AquaGib, Technical Services, the Electricity Authority and others.

It was originally envisaged that any repairs could take up to five days, but Dr Garcia said as a result of the big effort made by all parties working on this, the hope is that the repairs could be carried out in two days - by Sunday. The situation has not been classified as a major incident for now.

GBC understands that the remaining functional reverse osmosis plant at Waterport normally accounts for about one quarter (25%) of the water used by Gibraltar. The DCM did not comment on this aspect of our question to him. He did say that that water this plant is providing will be ring-fenced for the hospital and other critical buildings.

The authorities have arranged a delivery of 600,000 litres from Spain tomorrow. Dr Garcia said similar deliveries could continue in the coming days.

AquaGib is to distribute bottled water, as well continuing with bowsers in different areas of Gibraltar, including Moorish Castle Estate, Alameda Estate and Naval Hospital Road. He said the MOD are also supporting by pumping water in to the system with their own reverse osmosis plant, “a combined effort for Gibraltar PLC”.

Asked by GBC if critical infrastructure in or close to Power’s Drive Tunnel lacked resilience, Dr Garcia said AquaGib has come up with seven or eight contingency plans which will now materialise. In respect of security, he said the area is fully secured, alarmed and with cameras. He said there is a length of tunnel in which a full investigation will be required, by police and the GFRS.

In respect of what was in the tunnels that burned, he said for many years Power’s Drive Tunnel has been used for storage. The area included two vaults held by Customs, a couple by the Ministry for the Environment (where different recycling bins and similar equipment were stored), and some in which wooden pallets were stored. The Acting Chief Minister said there was no electricity supply to the area, suggesting again the fire was started by someone - intentionally or accidentally.

An AquaGib helpline has been set up on 20073659 - elderly or vulnerable people can ring to get help with their water.