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Cold death toll rises to 22, new severe blizzards alert issued

Forecasters warn over new wave of snowfalls and blizzards, recommend drivers to stay put as of today.

By     Daniela Baragan

Heavy snowfalls and blizzard will be back with a vengeance. Hardly had the freeze warning been lifted when forecasters issued, yesterday, a new snowfall, blizzard and glaze watch for most regions, in force as of this morning (10am) until Sunday evening (8pm). According to the National Meteorology Administration (ANM), “snowfalls will start in the South-Western region and spread gradually to all regions, with a chance of heavy snowfalls on patches and the fresh snow layer likely to surpass 20 cm, especially in the hill and mountain areas”. Wind speed is likely to intensify in the South and South-East, where it may amount to over 90 km/h, blowing the snow about. As of Saturday morning, snow may give way to rain or sleet on patches, in the Southern and central regions, with a high chance of glaze-formations. Snowfalls are already underway in Oltenia, Wallachia and the Southern Banat, and wind speed is already on the rise. Forecasters recommend drivers to avoid all unnecessary trips.

On the other hand, the countrywide death toll from severe hypothermia, since the moment the freeze warning was issued, has continued its upward spiral, amounting to 22. In the past 24 hours alone eight deaths were reported in counties Arges, Buzau, Satu Mare, Hunedoara, Prahova and Dolj (three deaths), a press release posted on the Health Ministry (MS)’s website reads. The victim in Buzau is a 54-year-old man, an employee of the Buzau-Ialomita Water Authority, found dead in the snow on Wednesday evening in the yard of the Vadu Pasii hydro-technical cabin, where he used to live and work during the night. According to medical sources, quoted by Mediafax, the man was most likely killed by the freezing cold after going out of the heated room into a temperature of -17 degrees Celsius.

The freezing cold also caused the death of a 62-year-old man from Manesti, Prahova County, who died in hospital a couple of hours after being brought over in hypothermic shock.

The number of the homeless taken by ambulance services and SMURD teams to medical units and care centres is also on the rise. Thus, out of the 363 people in this situation, 186 needed medical care in the emergency wards. In fact, 73 people remain in hospital under observation.

-31.C in Radauti

The “pole of cold” moved for one night from Intorsura Buzaului (Covasna County) to Radauti (Suceava County), where a temperature of -31 degrees Celsius was reported, while the city of Suceava saw a temperature of -27. Ramnicu Sarat was also struck by extreme temperatures, with mercury falling to -20.3 degrees, while a temperature of -17 degrees was reported in Buzau. Bucharest was also in for freezing cold, reporting a temperature of -18 degrees yesterday morning at 6am.

Havoc on the roads

No sooner had the snowfall and blizzard watch been issued than havoc broke out on the roads. Thus, the authorities decided to close down the A2 Sunshine Highway on the Lehliu – Fundulea segment because of the snow and blizzard which severely reduced visibility. They subsequently went back on this decision. Nonetheless, the traffic police have suggested an alternative route to the respective segment, namely, DN 3 Bucharest – Lehliu, to be used in the event that the weather conditions deteriorate and the Lehliu – Fundulea segment may have to be closed to traffic again.

Four national roads were also closed down: DN 22F Izvoarele – Nalbant (Tulcea County), DN 23B Maicanesti – Codresti (Vrancea County), DN 2C Costesti – Padina (Buzau County) and DN 22 Ramnicu Sarat – Braila (Braila County). Vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes are banned from running on DN 2C Buzau – Pogoanele – Braila. At the same time, representatives of the Infotrafic Centre announced that a sheet of ice had formed on the A1 Bucharest – Pitesti highway between kilometres 49 and 86 and the snow layer was one to two cm-thick, which put a strain on the traffic. Furthermore, the Romanian-Bulgarian border may be closed on account of the weather conditions, the same source argues.

41 trains cancelled, ports closed

Rail passenger operator CFR yesterday cancelled a number of 41 trains due to snow and blizzard, with most of the routes closed Moldavia-bound. The routes closed are as follows: Medgidia – Tulcea, Tecuci – Marasesti, Tecuci – Falciu, Tecuci – Faurei, Faurei – Urziceni and Urziceni – Slobozia. “Half of the number trains running on the route Bucharest North – Balotesti has been cancelled, which means they are operating every two hours, and not one every hour,” rtv.net. quoted CFR marketing director Adrian Vlaicu as saying, who added that there are no significant traffic delays.
The blizzard also created problems at the seaside, with several ports in Constanta County, among which Medgidia, being shut on account of gale force winds.

Natural gas consumption reached record level

The frost lately led to a 30 pc increase in gas consumption. HotNews quoted GDF SUEZ Energy Romania as saying it tripled the daily amounts of imported gas delivered to company customers during Jan 23-31, from 3 M to 11 M cubic metres, or over 60 pc of all the gas imports. E.ON, too, announced it increased gas imports.

The natural gas national consumption is at an all-time high of over 70 M cubic metres/day, yet supply carries on as usual , according to an Economy Ministry press release, which added that Romania’s gas consumption peaked at 72.7 M cubic metres Wednesday, from 71.5 M cubic metres the day before.

Authorities mobilize

The authorities have mobilized in an attempt to avoid being caught by surprise once again. Transport Minister Anca Boagiu announced, at the end of the Winter Command meeting, that the National Highway Company (CNADNR) is considering closing ten more national roads (DN3, DN4, DN5B, DN6, DN41, DN55A, DN56 and DN61), apart from the four already closed.

Nevertheless, Boagiu stated that those that failed to do their duty and clear the snow will be sanctioned. The Minister nevertheless was sarcastic towards the journalists that had expressed their opinions on the cost of snow-clearing operations conducted on roads throughout the country, a cost rumored to stand at EUR 1 bln. “Until now everyone was an expert when it came to politics and football. Now I see everyone is an expert when it comes to roads too,” the Democrat-Liberal stated, pointing out that this contract was signed by former Transport Minister Ludovic Orban (PNL) and he should be the one asked to explain this exaggerated sum. The Minister pointed out that this is a 4-year contract whose cost totals EUR 265 M. Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu convened the Winter Command within the Bucharest City Hall. The National Council for Emergency Situations, a body subordinated to the Internal Affairs Ministry, was convened at the government.

Igas: We were told that the amount of snow will be higher than in 1954

Minister of Administration and Internal Affairs Traian Igas stated for evz.ro that we are in for extremely difficult days that will surpass historical highs registered in Romania. “Yes, we were told that the amount of snow will be higher than in 1954 (known as the harshest winter in Bucharest, featuring the strongest blizzard in our country with wind gusts that reached speeds of 126 kilometers per hour – editor’s note)! We are trying to prepare for the days ahead. This evening (Wednesday evening – editor’s note) RON 10 bln were earmarked from emergency funds for expenditures on gasoline, diesel oil, water and anything else necessary,” Igas stated.

8,000 soldiers ready for snow-clearing operations

According to a Ministry of Defence communiqué, Defence Minister Gabriel Oprea announced that the army is ready to use approximately 4,000 soldiers and 1,000 vehicles to mount rescue operations, to clear lines of communications, to recover snowed-in vehicles and to provide medevac by ground and air. The army is ready to hike that number by another 4,000 soldiers.

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