Snowfalls and blizzard to end today, severe cold to follow

124 localities cut off, 300 with no electricity, 45 national roads closed to traffic, schools closed in 12 counties and in Bucharest.

The severe winter is showing no signs of abating. Meteo­rologists extended yesterday the orange level alert for snowfalls and blizzard in eight south-eastern counties including the Capital until today. A yellow level alert for severe cold, valid until Sunday morning, will come into force today. The orange level alert for snowfalls and blizzard will be extended until 10 PM today in the following counties: Calarasi, Ialomita, Constanta, Tulcea, Braila, Buzau, Galati and Vrancea. The orange level alert will expire today at 8 AM in Bucharest, as well as in the following counties: Giurgiu, Teleorman, Arges, Dambovita, Prahova and Ilfov. According to this alert, wind gusts are expected to surpass speeds of 70-80 kilometers/hour tonight in most of Wallachia and southern Moldavia. “These regions will experience snow storms and visibility will drop below 50 meters,” the National Meteorological Adminis­tration pointed out. Severe cold will follow until the end of the week. Minimum temperatures are set to drop to -25 degrees Celsius, while maximum temperatures will reach -15 degrees.

Interim Prime Minister Catalin Predoiu summoned to the government several members of the command for emergency situations yesterday, asking them for a report on the problems generated at national level by the blizzard and asking the Romanian Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE) to be ready to supply consumers with natural gas considering the upcoming severe cold.

According to Internal Affairs Ministry authorities, 124 localities were cut off, over 300 were left without electricity and 237 county roads were blocked, the worst situations being reported in the following counties: Vrancea, Braila, Ialomita, Calarasi and Buzau. The A1 Highway was closed yesterday too. The A2 Highway, Bucharest’s beltway and 45 national roads were already closed.

The Giurgiu-Ruse border crossing point was closed for all auto vehicles. The decision was taken by Bulgarian authorities. Heavy vehicles were unable to enter Romania from Ukraine through the Siret border crossing point. In Zimnicea the ferry was unable to operate because of the ice.

The Ministry of Education announced yesterday that over 6,800 schools were closed down in 12 counties and in Bucharest.

Snowed in

According to secretary of state Mihai Capra, two trains with 1,100 persons onboard were snowed in on the night of Monday to Tuesday between the Lehliu and C.A. Rosetti localities. 400 of the passengers were taken to Bucharest on buses. The layer of snow in the area was 3.5-meters tall. Several Otelul Galati players as well as 100 students were among the passengers.

Seven motor coaches with 450 persons onboard were snowed in for approximately seven hours on Monday night, on National Road 3, between Calarasi and Bucharest. An ambulance with an 18-months-old patient onboard remained stranded in the area too. The layer of snow was 2.5-meters tall there.

According to undersecretary of state Raed Arafat, there are medical emergencies in areas that SMURD cannot reach or will reach with difficulty. Thus, there are 12 such cases in Calarasi, 4 in Teleorman, 4 in Vrancea, 5 in Buzau, 3 in Braila and 1 in Ialomita, Vaslui, Tulcea and Giurgiu. Nevertheless, he stated that the worst situation is in Vrancea.

Sailors onboard a tug that became stuck in ice on the Danube last week, near Tulcea, were given food after they depleted their onboard supplies. The tug was traveling from Galati to Izmail but became stuck in ice approximately 15 kilometers off Tulcea.

There were casualties even among rescuers. Thus, according to Internal Affairs Minister Traian Igas, who has filed his resignation, 300 Internal Affairs Ministry employees are hospitalized after taking part in rescue operations in recent days.

Number of victims revised

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has revised the number of persons that lost their lives because of the severe cold. The number was brought down from 39 on Monday to 36 on Tuesday. The 3 deaths that represent the difference were attributed to other causes. Nevertheless, the tally rose later in the day, two more deaths being registered yesterday in Arad and Constanta. Thus, the official number of deaths attributed to severe cold has reached 38. Of those, 28 people were found dead in public areas.

In the last 24 hours the number of ambulance calls in Bucharest-Ilfov has risen by 33 per cent to 1,389 compared to the same period in January. More than half of those calls were emergency cases.

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