More than 800 villages in Bulgaria remained without electricity on March 8, affecting tens of thousands of people, outgoing Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov said in an update on the situation in the country as emergency services grappled with the consequences of the heavy snowfalls of recent days.
Vuchkov said that the worst-hit districts were Smolyan and Kurdzhali. Extra teams and additional snow-clearing machines had been deployed in Kurdzhali. He confirmed that several places, mobile phone communications had been disrupted.
He said that the first priority for the ministry and other state institutions was to assist people at risk, by providing medical help, food and shelter. Restoring electricity supply could take a few days in some places, Vuchkov said.
EVN Bulgaria, the electricity distributor in southern Bulgaria, said on the afternoon of March 8 that it was working with the Electricity System Operator (ESO) on restoring power supply in the Rhodopes.
EVN said that 11 ESO substations were out of action, four in the Smolyan region, four in the Kurdzhali region and three in Pazardzhik.
Fully-staffed emergency teams from EVN were working on restoring power supply, while technicians from other areas were assisting in troubleshooting. A total of 195 emergency teams were at work.
In a number of places in the Rhodopes, power lines and poles had been brought down by snow.
Local media reports on March 8 said that the situation in Roudozem, Smolyan, Madan, Nedelino and Luki remained dire. Earlier, a code orange hazardous weather warning was issued for the day for Kurdzhali, Smolyan, Plovdiv and Pazardzhik.
According to bTV, some residents of the Kurdzhali and Smolyan regions had had no electricity for 36 hours. People in Madan, Roudozem and Zlatograd were incommunicado because their mobile phone batteries had run flat.
The situation was also serious in parts of north-western Bulgaria. More than 60cm of snow fell in the Belogradchik area.
Several villages in the Vratsa area had not electricity.
A rescue operation was underway in mountain resort of Bansko for a a snowboarder who got lost on the mountain. The Mountain Rescue Service said that the snowboarder was riding outside the marked tracks and did not observe the weather conditions, local news agency Focus said.
Snow in the area was more than a metre deep.
Elsewhere in the Balkans, there had been three days of continuous snow in high places in Greece’s Rodopi region, Bulgarian National Radio said.
In the Rodopi and Xanthi regions of Greece, homes, roads and farmland had been flooded. Traffic police temporarily banned the movement of heavy vehicles on the Xanthi-Komotini motorway because of strong winds.
Ferry boat services to Thassos had been suspended temporarily because of dangerous sea conditions, the report said.
In Serbia, the automobile association urged motorists not to embark on journeys in the Kopaonik area because of strong winds and snowfall. If trips were essential, vehicles should be fitted with snow chains.
Emergency services were deployed on the route from Brusa to Brzece, where there were snow drifts. Movement of all categories of vehicles was suspended.
In the Zlatibor district, more than 2000 people, mainly in the mountainous areas, had no electricity supply, Serbian media said. There had been more than 80cm of snowfall in the area but roads were passable.