Hundreds of people have been snowbound on national roads. Moreover, three highways and several national roads have been closed to traffic, while several trains and flights have been cancelled. At the same time, schools and several universities will be closed today and tomorrow.
Winter has taken hold of the entire country, later than it did in previous years, causing multiple problems for the population and authorities. The amber warning for blizzard, issued by meteorologists at the middle of last week, was subsequently restricted to Bucharest and 13 southeastern counties, while 14 counties in southern, central and eastern regions had been under yellow warning for blizzard until yesterday at 9 PM. The counties worst affected by blizzard were Teleorman, Dambovita, Giurgiu, Ilfov (including Bucharest), Prahova, Calarasi, Ialomita, Constanta, Tulcea, Braila, Buzau, Vrancea and Galati. At the same time, the following counties had been under yellow warning for blizzard: Mehedinti, Dolj, Gorj, Olt, Valcea, Arges, Brasov, Covasna, Bacau, Vaslui, Neamt, Iasi, Suceava and Botosani.
According to the most recent report compiled by the Interior Ministry (MAI), 321 persons were evacuated from means of transportation, 63 were rescued and 22 were given medical assistance until yesterday morning when eight more people were stranded in personal vehicles, trains or train stations. At the same time, 22 national roads were closed to traffic or traffic was restricted on them yesterday. At national level the authorities closed off another 63 county roads. The three highways (A1, A2 and A3) were among the roads closed to traffic, according to the Infotrafic Center. Maritime harbors were also closed, both for maritime and river traffic. Prior to the report being presented, interim Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea had stated that 150 persons were housed in temporary shelters belonging to local mayoralties.
“During this period we did not register persons stranded in their homes in critical conditions or missing persons,” Oprea said, being quoted by Mediafax. He pointed out during a videoconference with the prefects that the subordinates that will not show up for duty during the duration of the amber warning will be sacked.
In his turn, Premier Victor Ponta called on drivers not to use the roads affected by snow to leave their home cities unless exceptional situations call for it, pointing out that the persons not respecting this recommendation are showing clear signs of irresponsibility.
In what concerns Bucharest, the city’s ambulance service received over 1,200 calls in the last 24 hours, over 400 of them being emergencies that included 11 auto crashes and 28 fractures.
According to the reports compiled by the Local Police and the Bucharest Emergency Situations Inspectorate (ISU Bucharest), 28 incidents took place on Saturday. Two metal sheets were torn off by wind gusts, three trees were uprooted, three banners and four traffic signs collapsed, a traffic light broke down and two scaffolds were at risk of toppling. Moreover, 80 square meters of the Jewish Theater’s roof were torn off and are at risk of falling on the street. The perimeter was isolated by firefighters who intervened to remedy the situation. The theater suspended its activity as a result.
Schools and kindergartens closed
Schools and kindergartens will be closed today in 27 counties and Bucharest, the Education Ministry informs. In Bucharest, Braila, Buzau and Prahova the schools will remain closed on Tuesday too, according to the announcements made by the counties’ School Inspectorates. Moreover, the Bucharest, Pitesti and Valahia universities have suspended their activity today.
Victims of snow and cold
A 44-year-old man from Ciortolom locality, Vaslui County, was found dead yesterday morning in front of a village shop. According to preliminary information, the man left for home on Saturday evening after paying a visit to a local and collapsed after walking for approximately 200 meters. “Based on preliminary investigations, it was found that the man’s body shows no signs of violence that would point to him being the victim of a crime. The man was known to have medical problems and so he may have had a seizure on his way home,” Mihaela Straub, spokesperson of the Vaslui County Police, stated. Also yesterday, a 70-year-old man was found dead on Bucharest’s Colentina Road. The man seems to have been homeless.
Last week a 71-year-old man was found dead on a field in Arsura commune, while on Saturday a 56-year-old woman was found dead on a field outside her village in Frasinu locality. At the same time, an 82-year-old man was found dead, buried under snow in the courtyard of his home in Mehedinti County. An employee of the National Roads and Highways Company (CNADNR) died on Saturday while working to clear snow in Olt County. The man was 52 and his death was caused by cardiac problems.
Trains and flights cancelled
Nineteen trains were cancelled in southern regions, Transport Minister Ramona Manescu announced on Saturday. Air traffic was also affected, over 20 flights to and from Bucharest’s Otopeni Airport being cancelled on Saturday and five others being diverted to Baneasa Airport and Sibiu Airport because of unfavorable weather. The flights cancelled include TAROM’s Iasi-Bucharest flight on which PNL President Crin Antonescu should have returned to Bucharest on Saturday after taking part in the festivities organized in Iasi on occasion of Union Day.
Almost 10,000 households in Buzau County and approximately 2,000 households in Prahova County were left without electricity, the repair works taking a long time because of the powerful blizzard, the thick snow and impracticable roads. An entire neighborhood of Buzau city and 11 localities in Buzau County were in this situation.
Multi-vehicle collision on Sun Highway
According to data from ISU Calarasi, 35 auto vehicles were involved on Saturday in a multi-vehicle collision on A2 Highway (Sun Highway), five persons being injured, one of them seriously. Seven lorries, two trucks, three minibuses and 23 passenger cars were involved in the crash. Emergency crews extricated a person with a fractured arm. Four other persons with light traumas, concussions and bruises were also taken to hospital. In an operation that lasted almost seven hours, fire fighters evacuated 150 persons from the 35 auto vehicles involved in the crash. “All persons that were in the auto vehicles involved in the crash were (…) taken to the town hall in Lehliu Gara, where they were given shelter, food and warm tea,” a press release reads.
Army deployed in the streets
The unfavorable weather has resulted in the deployment of the army, with over 100 soldiers sent on the A1 and A2 highways in order to distribute food, warm tea and blankets to the people snowbound there. Moreover, 40 soldiers, three armored personnel carriers and two army trucks are working to clear Highway A1. Other soldiers were deployed in Arges and Valcea counties. A BGS ambulance that had to take two dialysis patients from Buzau called on the Army’s support too. Because heavy snow was blocking the ambulance ISU Buzau sent a tracked vehicle in order to take the patients and the ambulance driver to hospital.
Likewise, an ambulance with a nurse and a driver onboard was snowed-in at the intersection of National Road 2 with County Road 203G. Road workers and a platoon of gendarmes intervened.
Ten auto vehicles with 12 persons onboard were snowbound on County Road 205A, Lipia – National Road 1B. The persons were eventually safely evacuated. Likewise, several foreigners were snowbound in Buzau County. Thus, a Lebanese citizen was snowbound near Smeeni locality. The man tried to walk to the nearest locality in order to ask the authorities for help, but he collapsed because of the extremely powerful wind gusts. Several citizens found the Lebanese man in shock and took him to the local hospital in Smeeni where he was given medical assistance. Several Ukrainian citizens and several children from Salaj are hospitalized at the same hospital.
Difficult week ahead
Premier Victor Ponta announced Sunday, at the conclusion of a winter command summoned at the government HQ, that next week will be “difficult in terms of weather” and that “we cannot afford to breathe at ease starting tomorrow and must continue same as now”.
Previously in the day, Ponta wrote on his Facebook page that all institutions coordinated by the government are mobilized and on duty, adding that while they are working around the clock to protect people from the effects of the blizzard “there are many Taliban who have set in motion the machinery to protect Opris” (Ponta asked for the sacking of Marcel Opris, the head of the Special Telecommunications Service, following the air crash in the Apuseni Mountains – editor’s note).