The government decided to provide aid to the counties of Braila, Buzau, Calarasi and Vrancea, consisting in diesel, canned food and bottled water. Extreme weather made five more victims over the last 24 hours.
By Daniela Baragan
Five people dead, 30 national roads closed, 400 trains cancelled and 8,212 schools closed – these are the sad consequence of snowfalls and blizzard that hit parts of Romania, during the last 24 hours. According to a press release posted on the website of the Health Ministry (MS), five people died from severe hypothermia in the counties of Constanta (2), Ialomita (1), Sibiu (1) and Vrancea (1), bringing the total number of victims to 79 at country scale. Also during the last 24 hour-interval, ambulance and SMURD services transported to hospitals or asylums 102 homeless people, some suffering with hypothermia.
On the other hand, MS officials announced that the first shipment of medicines donated by the Antibiotice Iasi company was expected to reach yesterday the Public Health Departments of Vrancea and Buzau counties, which will distribute them to medical units, as necessary. The pharmaceutical producer sent by truck a shipment of antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and medicines for cardiovascular diseases worth over RON 100,000.
Yesterday, in the weekly meeting of the Cabinet, the government decided to provide aid to the four counties severely affected by snow and blizzard over the last two weeks (Braila, Buzau, Calarasi and Vrancea), consisting in diesel, canned food and bottled water, and will analyse the possibility to send other forms of aid to the hardest hit localities. The total value of the aid that was already granted amounts to RON 244,000, of which RON 70,000 for the Braila County, RON 25,500 for Buzau, RON 52,000 – Calarasi and RON 86,500 – Vrancea.
Also yesterday, the municipality of Chisinau (Republic of Moldova) announced its intention to aid the Romanian villages affected by snow, Mediafax reports. In a separate move, the local authorities of the Timis and Mures counties made donations to the hard-hit population of south-eastern Romania. The Timis County Council (CJ) donated money to the Vrancea and Buzau counties (RON 500,000 each), for snow-removal operations. According to the president of CJ Timis, Constantin Ostaficiuc, the money was taken from the reserve fund of the institution. Additionally, a number of local individuals and companies decided to donate 90 cubic meters of firewood, a ton of wheat and corn, and 4,000 litres of bottled water to the inhabitants of Vrancea, Buzau, Ialomita and Galati counties whose houses were buried by snow. The products will be transported to destination by the army.
After Vrancea, Buzau county too declares state of alert
Authorities instated a state of alert, yesterday morning, in three localities of Buzau County – Bisoca, Puiesti and Ramnicelu – buried under meters of snow, which blocked all the ways of access. According to Buzau County prefect Paul Beganu, local authorities issued a demand to this regard Monday, and the state of alert was instated until February 16. In the same context, Beganu said that 600 troops, gendarmes and fire-fighters would go to the isolated villages and help the people whose houses were buried by snow. In Buzau County, 13 localities are still deprived of power supply, some of them for almost two weeks, because roads are blocked by snow and Electrica cannot send its teams to fix the cables. Several roads were opened to traffic – with limitations – yesterday morning in Buzau County: DN1 B Buzau-Ploiesti – only for vehicles under 3.5 tons – and DN 2 (E 85) from Urziceni-Buzau to the border with Vrancea County – for all types of vehicles. However, 21 county roads are still closed.
MAI and CNADNR: grim balance
According to the balance of the past 24 hours, presented by the state secretary in the Interior Ministry (MAI), Mihai Capra, 259 villages and 161 county roads were still blocked yesterday and 31 villages were left without electricity. Traffic was resumed yesterday on ten national roads and on the A2, on the Lehliu-Fetesti segment, and A1 Bucharest-Pitesti highway, while 30 other national roads remained closed. Furthermore, the access of heavy vehicles was still barred on 20 other national roads and on A2, on the Fetesti-Cernavoda segment.
Recent heavy snowfalls continue to take their toll on railway traffic. Thus, according to CFR Calatori, seven railways were closed down yesterday and 400 trains were cancelled. Traffic is restricted on another 13 railways owing to snowfalls and blizzard. CFR Calatori further stated that the company would keep at least one passengers’ train running for every railway link.
On the other hand, air traffic on the “Henri Coanda” and Baneasa airports was not affected by the weather conditions. No flights were cancelled and only two flights – bound for Munich and Iasi – were delayed. The Craiova Airport, where a plane skidded off the runway on Monday, as it was preparing to take iff, remains closed for now.
Over one million children exempt from school yesterday
Although weather conditions were significantly better yesterday compared to Monday, over one million children remained at home yesterday, as classes were suspended in 8,212 schools in 12 counties and in Bucharest. According to the Ministry of Education, Research, Youth and Sport (MECTS), classes were suspended only partially in 20 other counties, while in nine counties it was business as usual. However, as of today, classes will be resumed in all schools in Bucharest. Indeed, yesterday the prime-minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu-himself voiced his hope classes would be resumed shortly across the country, arguing that weather conditions had improved. “I hope the local authorities, and the Education Minister pleaded for this in turn, will resume classes as soon as possible, as weather conditions improved, which means the process of education can be resumed in normal conditions, provided there is a good coordination in snow-removal operations at local level, naturally,” Ungureanu argued.
Bucharest cleared but not really…
Despite the local authorities’ effort, the capital didn’t look the way its residents would have liked to see it yesterday morning. Mayor Sorin Oprescu was also unhappy with how the snow clearing operations had unfolded, especially in sectors 2, 5 and 6. He instructed the Municipality Control Corps to permanently monitor the interventions by snow clearing operators and sanction them if they failed to perform.
Interested in how the clearing of the snow in Bucharest had gone was also PM Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, not because he was concerned about the locals being able to walk out of their homes, but because the government is based in Bucharest. ‘I phoned the Iasi mayor because Iasi is my home city and I find it absolutely normal to know what the situation is like up there. My parents, my relatives live there and I need to know what’s going on. (…) I have also spoken to Mayor Oprescu, because the headquarters of the government is in Bucharest and I’m not going to keep it from also that it also took me about three hours to drive through the snow drifts yesterday,’ Mediafax quotes Ungureanu as saying.
Yesterday, the National Company for Motorways and National Roads of Romania (CNADNR) asked the Court of Auditors to check the execution of all subsequent road and motorway maintenance service contracts concluded by the company. Starting with 2008, CNADNR S.A. has concluded framework agreements for the award of multi-annual maintenance services for national roads and motorways.
Frost will be back!
Fortunately, the orange snow and blizzard warning expired yesterday and no other weather warning will be issued in the near future. Weather specialists, however, say that the frost will be back, this time with slightly ‘milder’ lows compared to last week.
‘After the expiration of the orange warning, information available now suggests temperatures will be lower than usually for this time of the year, but no extreme frost episodes are expected,’ said the head of the Climatology Department of the National Meteorological Administration (ANM), Roxana Bojariu, according to ‘Evenimentul Zilei’. She explained that local authorities had been notified in due time by the experts about the recent severe weather phenomena. Moreover, Bojariu noted that we had had similar winters before, but ‘the public memory operates on short term’: ‘There have been a few winters with even more severe episodes, for example 1995-1996, 2004-2005, 2009-2010. But they represented a minority and weren’t among the most difficult winters of the whole period of meteorological observations. On the other hand, public memory fatally operates on a short term – then, too, there was some agitation on the public stage, but it seems that we, as a social system, are not very good at learning lessons from the past and evolve.’
Although very cold weather is in the next few days’ forecast, temperatures will slowly grow and local authorities, especially those in the areas that were the worst hit by snowfalls, now fear the flooding. The prime-minister does not share their concerns. ‘Regarding possible flooding, at this point we don’t have any warnings that should concern us in any way. Obviously, it all depends on how the air temperature changes: if it grows or stays as it is,’ PM Ungureanu said, nonetheless adding that the Ministry of Administration and Interior was ready to intervene should any such issues occur.
MAI helicopters on medical evacuation duty
Since ambulances were unable to respond to the distress calls they received, particularly in Vrancea, Buzau, Braila, Ialomita and Calarasi counties where the amount of snow made it impossible, the burden fell on Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI) helicopters which took part in several medevac missions. Thus, one helicopter medevaced a three-year-old child from Vizireni locality to a hospital in Buzau, while another medevaced a woman from Dragoiesti locality, Ialomita County, to a hospital in Bucharest. Helicopters were also used to medevac eight persons that had serious medical problems, including a woman that gave birth on Monday morning and a 15-year-old girl that had respiratory problems. At the same time, a helicopter medevaced from Sfantu Gheorghe a child that had appendicitis and from Crisan locality a man that had a broken arm. The two patients were taken to a hospital in Tulcea.
PDL leader on Romanians frozen to death: They died because they were drunk
Mircea Toader, leader of PDL MPs within the Lower Chamber, stated on Monday evening during a talk-show on Realitatea TV that only one of the Romanians that died of hypothermia in recent days died in his car, the rest having died because “they drank and fell asleep there.” He made the statement during a debate on the way in which authorities intervened to clear up the snow.
“Of the 80 or 64 people that died (…) only one died in a car, the rest drank and fell asleep there,” Toader stated. Later on, he stated for another TV channel that he only said that people that came out of village pubs were among the dead. “I’ve said that among the 70-something dead were people found on the side of the road, after they came out of village pubs,” Toader said. On Monday evening the death toll had reached 74, the deaths being caused by severe hypothermia. Most of the bodies were found in open air. Toader later publicly apologized for his statement, admitting he reacted impulsively. He admitted that “it was a mistake that I regret.” “I hope my regrettable error will be understood and my public apologies will be accepted,” Toader stated for ziare.com.
Eugen Nicolaescu, deputy leader of PNL MPs with the Lower Chamber, pointed out that Toader’s statement should be politically sanctioned by having him dismissed or by forcing him to apologize. “If PDL is a normal party then statements like the ones made by Premier Ungureanu and by Mircea Toader, the leader of PDL MPs within the Lower Chamber, should be politically sanctioned by dismissing their authors or at least by forcing them to apologize. Unfortunately, we won’t see this,” Nicolaescu stated.
PSD Vice President Ioan Chelaru stated in his turn that the PDL MP’s statements are unacceptable and reflect the ruling party’s manner of thinking.