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Heavy snowfall disrupts life in Balkans

January 12, 2019

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AN avalanche crashes into a hotel (left) in the Swiss Alps on Thursday. A shepherd leads a herd of sheep (top right) over snow-covered meadows near Beska, 30kms north of Belgrade, Serbia. A snow-blower makes its way on the Loferer Alp in the Austrian province of Salzburg on Friday.—AP
AN avalanche crashes into a hotel (left) in the Swiss Alps on Thursday. A shepherd leads a herd of sheep (top right) over snow-covered meadows near Beska, 30kms north of Belgrade, Serbia. A snow-blower makes its way on the Loferer Alp in the Austrian province of Salzburg on Friday.—AP

BELGRADE: Heavy snowfall this week in the Balkans has closed down schools, left some remote villages cut off and disrupted traffic and power supplies in many areas in the region. Authorities in Bulgaria said two snowboarders died in an avalanche on Friday.

The Bulgarian Red Cross said in a statement that their bodies were found at noon on Friday in the Pirin Mountains in the southwest of the country.

The statement said that the snowboarders themselves had caused the avalanche, apparently ignoring warnings and weather alerts that have been issued by the authorities after snow also caused traffic disruptions and power outages.

Albania also reported a snow-related death on Friday after a power company employee suffered a heart attack while repairing damaged supply lines, according to the government’s energy ministry. That brought to at least 20 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the past week.

About 2,000 soldiers and other emergency workers have taken part in nation-wide efforts in Albania to help those trapped in the snow and clear the roads to reach blocked rural areas. Many schools remained closed.

Serbia’s state TV said on Friday that several municipalities in the southwest of the country have introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages.

Most schools there have closed down and emergency crews have distributed supplies to some residents while 10 people have been rescued from their homes. Strong winds have created occasional snowdrifts, further complicating the situation.

In Montenegro, authorities on Friday managed to restore electricity to three towns on the Adriatic coast hours after a snowstorm on Thursday hit a key power distribution line cutting power supplies.

Meteorologist Dragan Buric said the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest in the country in decades.

Heavy snowfall continued in parts of Austria and southern Germany, with several places cut off and the bad weather expected to persist. Snow was causing problems in other parts of Europe, even in Norway’s Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

Austrian police said that a 16-year-old boy from Australia was killed in an avalanche in St Anton am Arlberg as he was skiing with his family on Wednesday.

Several railway lines in the Alps were closed because of the snow, trucks and cars got stuck for hours on a highway in southwestern Germany and schools were closed in parts of Bavaria.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019

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