Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:19 pm (KSA) 16:19 pm (GMT)

Jordan fires two ministers over water scandal

King Abdullah II accepted the resignations
King Abdullah II accepted the resignations

In a rare move, Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf Bakheet fired the health and water ministers on Sunday after hundreds of people were hospitalized suffering from diarrhoea after drinking contaminated tap water.

Bakheet told reporters Water Minister Thafer al-Alem and Health Minister Saad Kharabsheh tendered their resignations after an inquiry found official negligence in the maintenance of the public water system that caused the outbreak of the virus in a rural village in northern Jordan.

"I recommended to his majesty King Abdullah II that their resignations be accepted and a royal decree was issued to accept them," Bakhit told a news conference.

The dismissal of ministers is rare in the kingdom where few public officials are held accountable.

Officials say Bakheet was forced to act after a public outcry over the failure of local authorities to stop the spread of the virus for nearly two weeks since the first cases were hospitalized.

Earlier this month, hundreds of people in the town of Manshiyet Bani Hassan in the northern governorate of Mafraq fell ill with diarrhea and high fever after apparently drinking tainted water.

Bakhit said that other members of the cabinet will carry on their duties until replacements are found.

Last week, a government-commissioned probe showed that the outbreak had been caused by a non-fatal parasite known as cryptosporidium that was likely caused by a water pipe that became contaminated with animal dung.

The government has meanwhile pledged to revamp the aging water network in the affected region and has been supplying fresh water by truck to the area.

Bakhit insisted that the situation in Mafraq was back to normal. "The water is now free of all traces of the parasite," he said.

The premier also announced the creation of a ministerial committee to investigate the water problem and pledged "to punish whoever failed in his duties."

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