5.5 C
March 28, 2023

New blizzard and snow warning, 34 Romanians froze to death

Dozens of national roads were closed in 16 counties. Cold death toll in Europe climbs to 300 over the weekend.

More than 250 localities in 16 counties are affected by the massive snowfalls, blizzards and ice, the Home Affairs Ministry informed on Sunday night. 37 localities were completely isolated both by road and railway while 203 are experiencing power cuts. 19 national roads and the A2 motorway between Bucharest and Lehliu were closed and other 73 county roads as well. All roads in Olt County (South) have been closed last night.

Weather is getting worse in the south and south-east of Romania, and a code orange warning for heavy snowfalls and blizzard was instated yesterday at 6.00 PM in these regions, in effect until Wednesday. The other regions will remain under the incidence of a lesser, code yellow warning. Authorities demanded the population to stay calm and assured that things will not get worse than the previous weeks. According to the head of the National Weather Administration (ANM), Ion Sandu, until February 8 – the longest time interval forecasts can cover – there will be no major changes that would give the population reasons to panic. In his turn, PM Boc said Saturday, after a videoconference with county prefects, that the situation will not be worse than what we have already experienced, and things are under control, but authorities should stay vigilant nonetheless.  The appeals to calm come after inhabitants of Bucharest and other towns took supermarkets by storm over the weekend, to make food supplies in case they will be blocked at home by snow. Because of the orange code warning for blizzard and snow, the heads of various emergency services were called at the HQ of the Ministry of Interior, so they can coordinate their efforts if needed. Minister Traian Igas was expected to attend the meeting as well. Army, too, was asked to help. The prefect of Buzau County asked the military to send a tracked vehicle after two people that had to be transported to hospital, in an area ambulances could not reach because snow was 2-3 meters high.

In a separate move, a tracked vehicles was dispatched yesterday from an army base of Focsani to a village surrounded by 3-meter high snow, for a pregnant woman that was about to give birth.

Death toll rises

Bad weather makes new victims. The Health Ministry yesterday announced that six more froze to death, in the counties of Bacau, Botosani, Brasov, Calarasi, Iasi and Maramures, taking the death toll to 34, since the warning was issued. Furthermore, 300 people – homeless or with hypothermia – were taken by ambulances and SMURD vehicles to medical facilities or social centers, over the last 24 hours. Out of the total number, 118 cases needed emergency medical care. A man aged 57 froze to death at Cluj-Napoca, his body being found in an abandoned car parked in the central area of the town. Another fatality was reported in Constanta, where a homeless man that was taking shelter in a derelict building became the first victim of cold this winter, in the Black Sea town. In Bucharest, an unusual incident claimed the life of a woman, who was hit by a snow removal machine Friday, on the Orsova Street.

Closed roads, canceled trains, power cuts

Because of adverse weather conditions, authorities closed to traffic the A2 motorway between Bucharest and Lehliu, as well as 23 national roads, and restricted heavy traffic on other roads. Yesterday afternoon, various national roads from 16 counties were due to be closed, for snow removal operations. According to the National Company of Motorways and National Roads (CNADNR), the list of national roads closed to traffic yesterday evening included DN 1D Albesti-Urziceni, DN 22 Ramnicu Sarat – Baile, DN 23A Gologanu – Ciorasti, DN 2M Focsani – Odobesti – Coasa, DN 23 – Focsani – Braila, DN 2L Tisita – Panciu, etc. Also closed to traffic were DN 2 Focsani – Buzau ad a 3-km segment of DN 5A Adunatii Copaceni – Hotarele, near the Izvoarele village.

Three railway segments got closed as well (Urziceni – Slobozia, Bucharest Sud – Oltenita, and Oltenita – Chiajna – Jilava, while the Urziceni – Ploiesti Sud section was reopened) and 42 of the 1,947 passenger trains scheduled to leave yesterday were canceled because of bad weather. On the other hand, airports were open, but flights got delayed because of de-icing operations.

Danube ports, too, were closed, along with the Sulina Bar. Six ships are blocked by ice on the routes Crisan – Caraorman, Crisan – Mila Marina 23 Sat, Tulcea – Periprava, Tulcea – Sfantu Gheorghe and Tulcea – Sulina.

In Buzau County, 117 localities were cut from electricity yesterday afternoon, because power lines snapped under the weight of ice. In a similar situation were 5,000 inhabitants from nine localities of Prahova County.

Freezing rain

Weather services were right to issue a freezing rain warning, because this rare phenomenon already appeared in some regions of the country – Bucharest included – on wider areas than it was initially estimated. According to the ANM chief, freezing rain is “a rather rare phenomenon for Romania, but not totally unusual.” It appears when temperature in the upper layers of the atmosphere is higher than at ground level, so rain instantly freezes at the contact with the soil, houses, cars or power lines, which it covers with an ice crust.

The frost and ice that covered the ground Saturday night posed big problems to pedestrians and motorists. Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu urged the companies on contract with the Municipality and the Apa Nova company to remove the water from streets and issued an appeal to Bucharesters, whom he asked to avoid using their cars, in order to allow the intervention of snow and ice removing machines. The Bucharest-Ilfov Ambulance Service announced yesterday at noon that more than 1,200 people called the ambulance during the last 24 hours, more than half of cases being emergencies that included 33 fractures, 32 trauma from falling, 4 people that skidded on ice and could no longer move, and 99 homeless people that were taken to social centers.

Frost and ice also affected the counties of Ilfov, Calarasi, Buzau, Ialomita, Galati and Vaslui, and small areas in other counties. At Sibiu, two died Saturday night in a road accident, when their car skidded on ice and hit a roadside post.

The minister of Interior spreads panic

Meanwhile, politicians play with words and cause even more confusion. The ‘Evenimentul Zilei’ newspaper quoted the minister of Interior, Traian Igas as saying that “forecasts warn about snowfalls heavier than in 1954.” Later, Igas denied everything in a press release, stating that he “did not make estimations about the evolution of weather phenomena.” His statements triggered panic, with Romanians rushing to make supplies. According to supermarkets, the sells were bigger than during the Christmas period. Asked whether he will dismiss the minister of Interior for his alarmist statements, PM Boc said he knows nothing about any statement and sees no reason for such a decision, because MAI is doing its duty. Shortly after this first incident, Igas committed another blunder, this time against the Romanian language, as he confused two words that sound rather similarly in Romanian, so instead of announcing that no locality is deprived of electricity, he said that “no locality is obvious of electricity.”

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