The Maldives, one of the world's most famous scuba diving destinations, is grappling with a shortage of drinking water after a fire at the nation's lone water sewage treatment plant left about 100,000 people in Malé, the capital, without safe tap water. India has sent five planes full of water, and The Maldvives has also sought help from China, Sri Lanka and the United States. 

The water crisis is expected to continue through next week after the fire damaged the electrical control system at the Male Water and Sewerage Co. Thursday. The Maldives, a cluster of 1,190 coral islands south-west of India, depends on treated sea water because it has so few natural water sources, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The only water available at Male is stored in tanks and is being supplied for one hour every twelve hours,” India’s defense ministry said in a press release. Safa Mustafa, a spokeswoman for Red Crescent, told the Wall Street Journal that the government has distributed bottled water to residents “but this is not enough.” As panic spread, desperate residents began attacking stores that were rationing bottled water, while hotels in Male said their were running out of treated water, according to the Daily Mail.

The Maldives is home to about 400,000 people, with more than 750,000 tourists a year. Roughly 30 percent of The Maldives' gross domestic product comes from tourism and scuba diving is the main attraction, according to The Guardian. It was not immediately clear how the water crisis would impact scuba diving tourism.

“Indian assistance arrives in Maldives. First IL-76 with drinking water from India lands in Male,” India’s foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin tweeted Friday.


Only people with a Maldivian identity card were eligible for the free water, with thousands of migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka unable to receive help, activists said. "Maldivians get water when they present ID cards. What about the thousands of unaccounted labourers in the Maldives?" political activist Shauna Aminath told the Daily Mail.