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March 27, 2023

Winter makes new victims: seven dead in just 24 hours

Weather experts yesterday issued a code yellow snow and blizzard warning, in effect from yesterday at 6.00 PM until today at 6.00 PM, for the counties of the north, north-west and center of the country.

By    Daniela Baragan

Southern Romania is still suffering from the heavy snowfalls and blizzard it experienced earlier this week: seven people died over the last 24 hours, taking to 86 the number of fatalities caused by severe hypothermia so far. According to a press release posted on the internet site of the Health Ministry (MS), the latest seven victims died outside their homes, in the counties of Suceava, Bacau, Brasov, Gorj, Mehedinti and Mures.

The situation of the last 24 hours is still very serious, the Ministry of Administration and Interior (MAI) announces. Although things slightly improved from the previous day, 225 localities were still isolated by snow yesterday, meaning that only 34 localities were re-connected to the outside world, out of the 259 that were isolated Tuesday night. The worst situation was in the Buzau and Vrancea counties, severely affected by snow and blizzard. In Buzau, 114 villages belonging to 41 communes were still cut from the world, same as 60 villages of Vrancea.

According to MAI spokeswoman Alina Enciu, 24 counties are still affected by snowfalls, while 4,200 people from 11 counties still have their electricity supply cut, after 60 substations were damaged by snow and wind. Electrica already sent its repair crews to deal with the situations.

Coming to rescue missions, Enciu said that MAI helicopters took off on 26 such missions on Tuesday, in order to transport 28 patients and five food shipments to two ships blocked by ice on the Danube, at Tulcea. Also yesterday, a helicopter of the Tulcea Special Aviation Unit took to hospital a patient with intestinal occlusion, from Chilia Veche.

On the other hand, there were problems reaching the areas where helicopters and ambulances could not go. A 5-month baby from Chetrosu, Vaslui County, suffering with severe pneumonia was taken by sledge over a distance of 1.5 km, yesterday morning, after a 6-hour effort. The child was eventually taken to the Barlad hospital by an army vehicle with a team of paramedics from the Vaslui County Ambulance Service aboard. Also in Vaslui, a SMURD crew needed 15 hours to reach an old man with respiratory problems and angina, in Crang Nou. “We received the emergency call yesterday (Tuesday) at 15.00 hours, but were able to take the patient to hospital only Wednesday morning, after a snow-removal machine helped the SMURD ambulance cross a distance of about 12 km,” the spokeswoman of the Vaslui Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, Alina Poiana said, quoted by Mediafax

Traffic’s resumes on some roads and railroads

There is some progress in the road and railroad traffic, but authorities have little to do with it, as the improvement was possible because of the improving weather, which resulted in lifting the code yellow snow and blizzard warning from the regions of southern Romania. CFR Calatori announced that 213 trains, out of a total 1,947, were still canceled yesterday, and four railway lines were closed in the south-east of the country. After being closed for more than four days, passenger traffic resumed on the railroad between Bucharest and Cons­tanta. Another line that opened recently is Ciulnita – Calarasi Nord.

Road traffic, too, is improving and the Fetesti-Drajna section of the A2 motorway was reopened yesterday morning, same as 13 national roads. Six national roads were still closed: DN 1D Albesti-Urziceni, DN 2C Pogoanele-Slobozia, DN 24A Murgeni-Albita, DN 24D Barlad-Cuca, DN 3 Lehliu-Calarasi and DN 24C Stanca Costesti-Radauti Prut.

Airports throughout the country operated in normal conditions, except for the ‘Henri Coanda’ airport, where six inbound flights were delayed by fog, and an aircraft due to land at 6.15 AM had to be diverted to Sibiu. Out of the six flights, two were international and four local. Two flights – towards Oradea and Iasi – were delayed at takeoff. On the other hand, the Iasi airport was closed and snow removal operations were going on in Craiova. Also yesterday, over 345,000 pupils from 3,083 schools and high-schools stayed at home for the third day in a row, as classes were suspended in the counties of Buzau, Prahova and Vrancea. In the rest of the country and in Bucharest, schools operated on normal schedule.

Winter moves to counties in the north, north-west and centre of the country

If inhabitants in the south can take their ease at least for the moment, after the yellow and orange snow and blizzard warnings expired on Tuesday, the winter is now moving to the counties in the north, north-west and centre of the country, for which a yellow warning was issued yesterday, with validity until today at 18h. According to the warning posted on the website of the National Meteorology Administration, on February 15 and 16, in the counties of Caras Severin, Timis, Arad, Hunedoara, Alba, Cluj, Bihor, Salaj, Satu Mare, Maramures and Bistrita Nasaud it will snow and the new coat of snow will locally exceed 10-15 cm, especially in the Western Carpathians and northern Eastern Carpathians, Where the layer of new snow is expected to be 25 cm thick. In Banat, Crisana, Maramures, western and northern Transylvania, as well as in the mountains, the wind will intensify, the gusts exceeding 50 – 60 km/h, drifting the snow.

However, the south of the country is not completely free of weather warnings, even if, this time, the problem is not the snow. Yesterday morning, ANM issued a fog notice expiring at noon, for Bucharest and the counties of Galati, Vaslui, Bihor, Arad, Ilfov, Arges, Dambovita, Prahova, Ialomita and Buzau, where the visibility was low, in some points even less than 50 metres.

Authorities, again prepared but not quite for flooding

While more and more local authorities in the areas severely hit by snow mention the imminence of flooding as soon as the snow melts, political leaders in Bucharest continue to say they are prepared to cope with a situation like that. It is also the case of Environment Minister Laszlo Borbely (UDMR), who told RFI yesterday that the floods depend on how fast the snow will melt down. ‘If the weather does not get warmer very suddenly and we don’t have over 8 or ten degrees for three or four consecutive days, the snow may melt down gradually, which means that we won’t have those flush floods that are the most dangerous as we well know’, the minister said.  In fact, central authorities seem to be counting more on the very low river discharge rates following the drought last autumn than on some elaborated action plan to prevent possible flooding. ‘Currently, river discharge rates are rather low. Even the Danube has almost half the annual average discharge rate. Therefore, there will probably be no major issues with the big rivers, but, of course, it all depends on how the snow will melt’, Borbely also said. Claiming there is an anti-flood national strategy in place, the minister noted that ‘it is the duty of the local authorities to be prepared (in case of flooding – our note)’. In fact,  Laszlo Borbely noted that ANM was not to blame for the issues caused by snow – as ex-Transport Minister Anca Boagiu had claimed – but the mayors who should have intervened ‘more promptly’ with snow clearance equipment instead of waiting for help from the national authorities. Later on, the spokesperson for the Romanian Waters National Administration (ANAR), Ana-Maria Agiu, announced that the amount of snow does not pose flooding risks in the next 7 – 10 days. ‘The surplus of water resulting from snow melting that will reach water courses will be taken over without problems into the reservoirs which are currently half empty. If night lows remain below zero degrees, the snow won’t melt down quickly,’ Agiu said, quoted by realitatea.net. The Ministry of Environment and Forests in turn states that, before the end of February, there is no significant likelihood for the occurrence of any flush floods posing a major flooding risk.

Romanians show solidarity with snow victims

Meanwhile, solidarity action with the snow victims continued all over the country. Over 50 mountain rescuers and chalet owners from the mountain report of Straja (Hunedoara County) set out to Vrancea yesterday morning, heading a convoy of 18 vehicles loaded with essential food supplies as well as bottled water, determined to reach the isolated villages on skies. Jiu Valley miners also renounced their hot meals and donated 25,000 cans of food to the residents of the localities stranded in snow. Another convoy loaded with tens of thousands of food cans, two tons of flour and a lorry full of still and mineral water left Deva for Calarasi Wednesday morning. Giurgiu County will receive from the Hunedoara County Council RON 60,000 to purchase fuel for the snow clearance equipment. The sum was collected from the donations of six companies that have contracts with the Hunedoara County Council. The border policemen also collected food and water that will be transported to the locals affected by snow and blizzard of secluded villages in Buzau and Ialomita counties and 50 of them will help dig out the houses dwelled by elderly persons or poor families, the General Border Police Inspectorate (IGPR) informs. Targu Mures-based Azomures chemical fertiliser producer in turn decided to donate EUR 5,000 for the repair of the heating system of a school in the locality of Sageata, Buzau county, where radiators practically blew out and the boiler broke down because of the frost. Sageata commune is among the 41 localities in Buzau county that are still isolated.

ANRE President: Power export not suspended, just limited at peak load

Prime-Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu yesterday had a working meeting with the Ministries of Finance, Economy and Justice and with the president of the National Regulatory Agency in Field of Energy (ANRE). During the meeting, ANRE President Iulius Plaveti briefed the PM on the power export situation, pointing out that it is not interrupted, but only limited during peak loads and that there is no risk of the power supply to households of industrial consumers being cut, the government informs.

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