States of emergency, power cuts as Bulgaria continues grappling with heavy snowfalls

Military personnel and additional firefighters were drafted in to areas of southern Bulgaria hardest-hit by heavy snowfalls, while many villages remained without electricity on March 8.

Bulgaria’s roads agency repeated its call for people to avoid travelling by road unless absolutely necessary.

The situation remained critical in the Rhodopes, where snowdrifts in places reached several metres, and schools would be closed in the Smolyan region on March 9 and 10, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said.

Most villages in the mountainous part of Smolyan district were in their third day without electricity.

Snow cover in Smolyan had built up to about 50cm on March 8, while in the higher parts of the Rhodope mountains, snowfall was 130cm.

On March 8, the municipality of Luki became the latest to declare a state of emergency because of the heavy snowfalls.

The regions also among those worst-hit by the snowfall and, in some areas, ensuing rain, are Kurdzhali, Haskovo, Plovdiv and Pazardzhik.

Local media reported that there also had been significant snowfalls in Vidin, Montana, Lovech and other areas in northern Bulgaria.

Eight teams from the fire safety and population protection teams joined efforts on the morning of March 8 to deal with the situation in the Kurdzhali region, with firefighters seconded from the Plovdiv and Stara Zagora regions.

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Regional authorities in Kurdzhali said that there was no danger of the Studen Kladenets and Kurdzhali reservoirs overflowing, and thus no direct danger to residents of areas near the dams.

On March 8, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Lilyana Pavlova was inspecting the Kurdzhali and Smolyan districts and would take in co-ordination of snow-clearing efforts, her ministry said.

People should not expect that roads could be cleared and electricity supply restored using a magic wand, given that snowfall had not stopped for more than 48 hours, Pavlova said in an interview with bTV on March 8. Authorities in the hardest-hit areas – Kurdzhali, Smolyan and Haskovo – were working non-stop and at full pace, Pavlova said.

Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev had summoned a crisis staff to co-ordinate the military’s efforts to assist the response to the adverse weather conditions in the country, the ministry said.

The level of the Danube River near the town of Svishtov had risen by 18cm in the past 24 hours, meteorologists said on March 8.

In Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, where a reported 20cm of snow fell on March 7 and where weather forecasters predicted continuing snowfall into March 9, all road surfaces had been treated twice against icing, the municipality said.

All routes used by public transport and all main roads and potentially dangerous sections had been processed overnight, Sofia municipality said. The Dragalevtsi – Aleko and Boyana – Zlatni Mostove stretches of road had been sanded.

A total of 124 snow-clearing machines were operating in Sofia. Public transport was moving normally, although some bus routes had delays, according to the municipality.

Weather forecasters said that in the course of March 8, weather in Bulgaria would gradually improve. Precipitation would ease and would mostly be snow, except in far south-western Bulgaria and parts of the south-east, where rain was expected.

Average maximum temperatures across Bulgaria were forecast to be between zero and five degrees Celsius, with a daytime high of zero forecast for Sofia.



The Sofia Globe staff

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