UZICE, Serbia (AP) Vasilije Zivkovic says he just wants to sit down and cry.
The 61-year-old resident of the western Serbian town of Uzice was among dozens queuing Friday at the town's main square to fill up bottles with trucked-in drinking water after potentially poisonous algae was discovered in the water supply.
The existence of red-colored algae has left some 60,000 people without water to drink or for cooking for around two weeks, and has led to the cancellation of surgeries at the local hospital. The problem is laying bare the anger many in Serbia feel about officials they see as corrupt or simply incompetent.
"This is shameful!" Zivkovic said.
Uzice authorities and the Serbian army this week started the construction of a temporary backup system, pledging it would start working in late January. The Serbian government has promised emergency funds, local officials said.
"We have done all we could to avoid any danger for the citizens," Vidoje Drndarevic, the deputy mayor, told the Associated Press.
Algae normally exists in all still water, but levels have to carefully be kept under control.
Drndarevic said the local prosecutor's office has launched an investigation to determine who was responsible and what disturbed the water balance to allow the algae to spread.
"We are now dealing with consequences," he alleged. "No one will be spared."
Water samples have been sent to Germany for further testing, said Biljana Mijovic, who heads the local Public Health Office. Mijovic told the AP that levels of algae-originating toxins so far have been below the World Health Organization minimum, but since existence of any kind of algae in the water is forbidden "we deemed the water non-drinkable."
Uzice resident say they no longer trust anyone.
"Everybody is just telling stories. No one wants to say what really happened," said Dragan Tumbakovic, a 60-year-old ex-construction worker.
Retired teacher, Desanka Bjelica, 85, said she does not remember anything like this happening in the past. "And, now I must drag these bottles at my age," she lamented.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings