SINGAPORE: New Zealand's Hastings district Mayor issued a public apology on Monday (Aug 15), after thousands of people in the town of Havelock North fell sick due to the outbreak of a waterborne illness, according to local reports.
According to Radio New Zealand, the town's water supply has been contaminated with the campylobacter bacteria, causing up to 2,000 people to fall sick showing symptoms of gastroenteritis, including vomiting and diarrhoea. It reported that all schools in the town will be closed over the next two days.
The station also reported that the death of a resident in Havelock North from a gastro-like illness was also being investigated.
According to the Guardian, more than 50 people were taken to the emergency department at Hawke’s Bay Hospital, and 18 people were hospitalised.
Two elderly people were in intensive care, both as a result of the water contamination, said the report.
In a statement on its website issued on Monday, The Hastings District Council said the contamination and resulting sickness was “very serious” and the bacteria found was most likely a result of animal faeces finding its way into the bore.
The Council issued a public apology. "The Council is charged with supplying you safe, reliable water," it said. "The Council has failed to do this on this occasion. As Mayor and Chief Executive, we offer our sincere apology for this."
"Councillors and staff are devastated that hundreds of families in our community have been struck by this debilitating illness. While the cause remains unknown, there is clear evidence that the Havelock drinking water bores have been contaminated resulting in widespread sickness."
According to Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule, this is the largest outbreak of its kind in New Zealand's history. He told Checkpoint with John Campbell that he publicly apologised.
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has condemned the outbreak as unacceptable.