New leaders bring fresh water to thirsty capitol of Libya

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Water started flowing again in several areas of Tripoli on Monday, putting an end to an outage of more than a week that rebels blamed on sabotage by retreating Moammar Gadhafi loyalists.

Tripoli’s nearly 2 million residents had survived on brackish water from wells and drinking water delivered by trucks and ships from neighboring countries.

After water flowed from faucets again Monday, some residents rushed out to celebrate by washing their cars. “Thank God, everything is going to be all right,” said Ali Hamed, a resident of Tripoli’s western neighborhood of Dreibi, as he sprayed his car with water from a hose.

The disruption of the water supply posed a major challenge for rebel leaders as they tried to take control of Tripoli. Rebel fighters entered the city on Aug. 21, but ousted remaining Gadhafi loyalists only after a week of fierce street battles. Since then, the new rulers have struggled to restore services, including water, electricity and garbage collection.

Usama el-Abed, the deputy mayor of Tripoli, said that by Monday evening, water had been restored to more than 70 percent of Tripoli. It was not immediately clear if the water was back for good and if all the damage had been repaired.

The water crisis served as a reminder of the long reach of Gadhafi, even as he is on the run and his remaining loyalists find themselves encircled in a shrinking number of strongholds.