BOWSERS and stocks of bottled water were sent out in Oxford yesterday after a burst water main cut supplies to thousands of homes and businesses.

Both the Churchill Hospital and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC) also lost their mains supplies.

Problems were first reported at 6am, with water flooding the junction of Old Road and Windmill Road in Headington.

Householders as far apart as Ramsay Road in Headington Quarry and Snowdon Mede in Marston reported loss of pressure.

Engineers from Thames Water arrived at the road junction by 7am and began work to divert supplies around the leaking section and to dig out the nine-inch pipe to replace it.

By late morning they had isolated the damaged pipe and water supplies had been restored to the area but repair work was still continuing last night.

Thames Water spokesman Simon Evans said the company had received about 150 calls from customers in and around Headington early yesterday.

He added that it would be hard to say exactly how many people were affected by the leak, though it was estimated that 2,000 customers were cut off from their water supply.

Both the Churchill Hospital and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre had their supply of water cut off.

But Oxford University Hospitals Trust spokesman Kelly Dodgson said the that the Churchill and the NOC had emergency water tanks and had switched to those until the mains supply was reconnected.

The John Radcliffe Hospital ’s water comes from another main so it did not need to draw on its emergency supplies.

Oxford University’s Old Road Campus was hit by the fault, as was Oxford Brookes University ’s Headington campus, in Gipsy Lane, where the sports centre was closed as a result.

Stapleton Road resident Patrick Coulter said: “We had very low pressure this morning but we just about had enough water. When I went to have a shower it was pretty obvious something was wrong.

“It seems to have been dealt with fairly efficiently and our water supply was fixed quickly. It reminds you of how essential these services are.”

Bowsers loaded with drinking water were stationed in Headington for most of the day in case the hospitals ran out. Bottled water that was also sent to the area was not needed.

Mr Evans added: “We’re very sorry to everyone in the Headington area and we worked as fast as we could to fix it.”

Engineers were still investigating the cause of the burst last night.