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Thousands without water after major pipe bursts in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Half the people in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. have no running water while the other half are under a boil-water advisory and are being asked to conserve water due to a water main break. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)
Half the people in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. have no running water while the other half are under a boil-water advisory and are being asked to conserve water due to a water main break. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)

A major water main break has caused Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., to declare a state of emergency as half the population — about 26,000 households, or 56,000 people — has been without running water for more than 48 hours.

The city, about 40 kilometres southeast of Montreal, says water won't be back until at least end-of-day Thursday.

Those who still have running water are under a boil-water advisory and are being asked to use it sparingly.

Free bottled water is available at two locations, at the Terminus, 800 Boucher Street, and the parking lot of the old Sears store at Carrefour Richelieu, 600 Pierre-Caisse Street between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Each household is allowed two four-litre water bottles a day.

City workers are ensuring drinking water is available at schools, CHSLDs and hospitals. But, the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre has asked people to avoid the emergency unit of Haut-Richelieu Hospital.

The break happened Monday at the intersection of Saint-Jacques and Caldwell streets, and the city says the repairs to the 750-millimetre pipe are complicated, special parts are required and there is no timeline yet for when they will be completed.

Mayor Andrée Bouchard said the city will need "exceptional powers" in order to "take immediate action in the midst of this complex and evolving situation."