Heavy snowfalls and strong winds led to declarations of states of emergency in eight municipalities and a district in north-eastern Bulgaria on December 20 2012 as the country got a chilly taste of the harsh winter weather that has claimed lives in Ukraine, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.
In Bulgaria, at least two people died because of the severe weather, one who froze to death in his car in a village in the Varna area while another was found dead in a street in the Black Sea city.
Roads in the Bulgarian districts of Silistra, Shoumen, Varna, Bourgas, Sliven, Smolyan and Stara Zagora were blocked by accumulated heavy overnight snow, with cars, lorries, buses and even ambulances stuck in the snow.
A significant part of the problem was motorists who ventured out on to the roads in spite of weather warnings and appeals by local authorities not to travel.
States of emergency were in effect in six municipalities in the Varna region: Byala, Dolni Chiflik, Valchi Dol, Dalgopol, Vetrino, Suvorovo and Avren. Schools in the Varna region were closed on the afternoon of December 20 and would remain closed on December 21, authorities said. The Hemus highway near Varna was closed.
Tertiary roads in the regions of Rousse, Turgovishte, Razgrad, Silistra, Shoumen, Razgrad, Varna, Bourgas, Sliven and Stara Zagora were closed to all vehicles.
The entire road network in Veliko Turnovo, Gabrovo, Stara Zagora, Haskovo, Kurdjali, Yambol, Sliven, Turgovishte, Razgrad, Silistra, Shoumen, Dobrich, Rousse, Varna and Bourgas was closed to vehicles of more than 3.5 tons.
The state of emergency in the district of Shoumen was extended by 24 hours to remain in force until 9pm on December 21, local media said. Fifty snow-clearing machines were at work but their task was being hampered by strong winds and snow drifts.
In parts of north-eastern Bulgaria, the amount of snow that fell in the past 24 hours was double the monthly average.
In Romania, counties in the south-eastern part of the country were under code orange and code yellow hazardous weather warnings because of blizzards and strong winds.
Romania’s meteorological office said that in coming days, weather would be very cold, especially during the nights and mornings in eastern and central parts of the country.
On December 19, Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta said that the prefects of the Neamt and Botosani countries had been fired because of poor performance in unblocking the roads, English daily Nine O’Clock reported.
In Ukraine, at least 61 people were reported dead after a cold snap that saw temperatures drop to minus 23 degrees Celsius. Of this figure, most died in the streets. Coming days were expected to see night-time temperatures drop as low as minus 28 degrees Celsius in northern, central and eastern parts of the country.
In Russia, more than 50 people were reported dead after temperatures of minus 18 degrees Celsius were recorded in capital city Moscow and minus 50 degrees in Siberia. More than 700 people have become seriously injured, mostly from hypothermia and frostbite.
In Turkey, major city Istanbul saw its first snow of the season on the morning of December 20, along with strong winds, mainly in areas near the Black Sea coast. Eastern Turkey has seen serious snowfalls and more snow was expected, local media said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)