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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Algerians riot over water shortages
Algiers
The country has suffered years of chronic drought

Algerians protesting against water shortages have rioted in the eastern coastal town of El Arrouch, setting fire to buildings and vehicles.

Several hundred people, complaining of the nine-month water shortage, were involved in the rampage.

Algeria has a chronic water shortage problem, caused by years of drought and an inefficient supply system.

El Arrouch lies near the major port of Skikda around 310 miles (500km) east of the capital, Algiers.

Riot police

Angry civilians attacked and set fire to the town hall, the police station and a number of vehicles, and smashed the windows of the water company.

They also blocked the main highway to Constantine, the country's biggest city in the east.

Riot police have dispersed the crowds with tear gas, but the atmosphere is reported to be still tense.

Algeria has too few reservoirs to serve its population and many of those are virtually empty, producing only muddy, yellow water.

Problems to continue

Most of the reservoirs serving the capital have completely dried up, meaning Algeria is currently being served only by specially-dug boreholes.

Now, residents of the country's capital get water at best one day out of three.

Water shortage is only one of several critical social problems Algerians face at the moment, along with electricity cuts and a lack of social housing.

And the problems look set to continue over the summer.

See also:

05 Jun 02 | Middle East
02 Jun 00 | Science/Nature
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
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