Hundreds of Eastern European villages cut off as temperatures plummet to -40C
European crisis commissioner says ‘the worst is yet to come’
By Lee Moran
Europe continues to be blanketed in snow as the cold snap which has so far killed hundreds across the continent shows no signs of stopping.
Hundreds of villages across Eastern Europe were today completely cut off as temperatures plummeted in some places to -40C.
Rescue teams struggled to evacuate southern Bulgarians where villages flooded after rain and melting snow broke damn walls.
Residents were also warned that there was more snow to come – which would be followed by severe floods when the temperature finally starts to rise and the snow melts.
Meanwhile temperatures in Britain are due to plummet to as low as -13C, with the big freeze due to last well into the weekend.
Around 146 towns and villages in Romania were isolated with no road or train connections because of blizzards.
Up to 174 villages had no electricity, said Alin Maghiar, spokeman for Romania’s emergency department.
Electricity was also cut off to 300 towns and villages in Bulgaria, roads were closed and several border checkpoints with Romania and Turkey were shut, the Interior Ministry said.
Melting snow caused a dam wall to break and flood an entire village in southern Bulgaria yesterday. Four people drowned and more than 50 were evacuated.
Four more people died when their cars were swept away by high waters.
Iliyan Todorov, from the village of Biser, told Trud newspaper: ‘It was terrifying. We were warned that the tsunami was coming only five minutes before the wave came. We survived by a miracle.’
European Commissioner for Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva added that ‘the worst is yet to come’ after visiting the village.
She told bTV: ‘The next two weeks may be really hard. The warmer weather will cause melting of the snow and the situation will most probably worsen.’
Ukraine has been hardest hit, with 135 people confirmed dead so far and forecasters saying bitter temperatures, as low as -30C, would continue for at least another eight days.
The Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas have been forced to close due to strong winds, and Romania’s main port of Constanta was also shut.
Authorities in Serbia said they were preparing to use explosives to break ice on the rivers Ibar and Danube.
Predrag Maric, head of the Interior Ministry’s emergencies department, said: ‘An ice cap half a metre deep has formed on the Ibar near Kraljevo and there is a real danger that it could cause the river to overflow into the city.’
He said 62miles of the Danube were freezing over and that it would also be mined.
Eleven people have died so far from the cold and snow in Serbia, with the latest victims a 62-year-old man found dead close to his home near Arilje, and a woman killed by falling ice in the capital Belgrade.
Serbian power provider TENT, which provides more than 60 per cent of the country’s electricity, said it was managing to maintain supplies but was working at full capacity in ‘extreme’ conditions.
To the south in Albania, the Kukes lake on the border with Kosovo – supplying a hydropower plant at Fierze – was frozen over for the first time in more than a decade, putting more pressure on already strained power supplies.
The cold weather has increased demand for gas in many European countries.
Italy took emergency measures yesterday to deal with what it called critical shortages of Russian gas.
Supplies to other members of the European Union mostly improved at the weekend but remained below normal.
Russia, which supplies about a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, reduced westward flows through pipelines across Ukraine last week citing greater domestic demand because of the extreme weather.