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POISON WATER TERROR THREAT; EXCLUSIVE: Company warns supply may dry up.

Byline: BOB ROBERTS

A TERROR warning has been issued about a potential attack on British water supplies.

Businesses, schools and hospitals have been told to prepare for cuts if there is a strike at pumping stations or pipelines.

There are also fears Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists could poison reservoirs with cholera, cyanide or ricin causing thousands of casualties.

Thames Water, a major British supplier, has warned of possible disruptions because of "third party damage".

It adds: "The network in London has felt the indirect impact of terrorist bombs in the past. In most cases an alternative source can be provided...but on occasions the supply may fail." It says hospitals, prisons and care homes will get priority for fresh supplies. Others will have to rely on tankers, bottled water or standpipes .

The warning, issued on a Government website, comes as fears mount of a poison attack on water supplies.

Intelligence documents revealed this weekend claim a cell of six Islamic militants is working on a poison plot.

The cell is part of the Hamburg-based al-Tauhid group. It is believed the dossier was drawn up after the interrogation of members arrested in Germany last year.

MI5 has advised water companies on tightening security to counter poison plots.

Scottish Water has been ordered to build new fences around a reservoir supplying most of Glasgow's water.

Experts say water supplies are an easy target.

Andy Oppenheimer, a terrorism expert for Jane's Defence journal, said: "A bin full of cyanide would cause thousands of people to become incapacitated. Hundreds of cheap and easily available chemicals would do the same."

London is seen as especially vulnerable because its water is fed from a single pipe - the 50-mile long London Ring Main which supplies five million people a day.

Access points to it are unguarded with only light security measures.

Water consultant Hugh Allan said: "Anyone who is halfway determined can get into a pumping station. There are only basic security measures. They are only designed to be vandal-resistant and not anti-terrorist."

Restaurants, pubs and breweries would all have to close down if water supplies were cut off.

Diseases could spread rapidly if fresh water is not available for cooking and cleaning.

HOW TERRORISTS COULD STRIKE

CYANIDE: 50 litres poured into water supplies would kill thousands. Death would occur within minutes with symptoms including spasms, breathing difficulties and coma.

CHOLERA: One litre of the water-borne bacteria could spread the disease through the entire system. It is fatal with symptoms including nausea, cramps and acute diarrhoea.

RICIN: A huge amount - up to four tons - would be needed to infect water supplies but it is again fatal. Death is caused in three days from vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions and thirst.

OTHER water-borne pathogens include typhoid, polio, hepatitis and diptheria.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 27, 2003
Words:458
Previous Article:MAJOR HUBBY'S NO LIAR.
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