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News 09 Jan 17

Blizzards and Flu Epidemics Grip Balkans

Heavy snow has left many villages and roads snowed in across the Balkans, while schools are on a prolonged winter break as the authorities try to contain outbreaks of flu.

Tirana, Sofia, Pristina, Zagreb, Podgorica, Belgrade


Heavy snow in Albania has caused difficulties on many road routes while some private companies have been sued for failing to keep them unblocked and safe for the citizens.

Water shortages are also a common problem for Albanians because the water has frozen in reservoirs. Power outage for some areas has made the situation more difficult for many communities.

The government on Saturday said schools and kindergartens would stay closed until January 14 to prevent the spread of a flu epidemic sweeping the country during the unusually low temperatures.

The government decision emphasized that one parent working in the public administration of a sick child is free to not go to work but should stay at home and take care of the child.

This decision to close the schools and kindergartens angered the opposition Democratic Party, however.

It said the danger of flu outbreaks was being used "as an excuse to avoid a tragedy that might come about as a result of the lack of minimal conditions in Albanian schools, like with the heating systems," the party said.


Plunging temperatures, snow and ice in several areas of Bosnia including the capital Sarajevo have caused electricity failures and blocked roads over the weekend and on Monday, also causing municipal heating systems to fail.
Throughout the Federation entity, an orange meteorological warning was given as Praca in eastern Bosnia hit lows of minus 30 degrees.
Citizens in the city of Zenica were this morning without heating for the second day in a row after a district boiler system failed, with Zenica University announcing it would not open as a result.
This morning at 10am temperatures of -16 were recorded in the town, where teams are trying to repair two inoperative boilers.
Temperatures of below minus 20 were recorded last night in other areas including Sarajevo, where some neighbourhoods were left without electricity after faults due to cold weather.
News agency Fena reports that the Union of Independent Trade Unions in Sarajevo has called for employers to protect staff in the extreme weather.
Roadside assistance was called for in more than 1,000 cases over the weekend, according to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Automobile Club, which said its lines had been overburdened.


On Monday, emergency code yellow, for extremely low temperatures, was declared over the whole territory of Bulgaria.

Severe weather is expected with maximum temperatures between -13C and -8C and minimum temperatures dropping to -16C in some parts of the country.

Although most roads and highways have been cleared of snow, because of the accumulated snowfalls and blizzards, drivers have been advised to avoid travelling.

The ferry connecting the north town of Oryahovo to Beket in Romania has been stopped, as large parts of the Danube have frozen.

Four municipalities - Shumen, Silistra, Dobrich in northeast Bulgaria and Montana in the northwest - have remained under an emergency situation, while 11 villages in the northeast have been left without no access to electricity due to the extreme weather.

Since Monday, the army has been deployed to help the fight against the harsh weather conditions.

As a result of below-freezing temperatures and a flu epidemic in a number of regions, pupils will remain at home until January 11 included.

The harsh weather conditions have already claimed several lives, all of them migrants.

On January 6, border police announced they had found two men, described as Iraqi migrants, who had died of exposure to freezing temperature near the village of Izvor in the southeast.

Four days earlier, a woman, possibly of Somali origin, was found frozen to death near Ravadinovo in south Bulgaria.


Kosovo's Ministry of Education postponed the start of the school year until January 16, because of low temperatures and a possible flu epidemic.

As a result of heavy snowfall, many mountain villages in Kosovo were isolated over the weekend.

The places that have suffered most from the severe weather are the mountain villages of Dragash as well as Kacanik, Mitrovica, Kamenica, Podujeva, Istog and Peja.

On January 6, the Mayor of Pristina, Shpend Ahmeti, announced an extraordinary situation in the capital for the next 48 hours.

Temperatures in Pristina have dipped low to -24C, causing trouble at Pristina International Airport also, where flights were canceled or diverted to other airports.

The heavy snow that started last Thursday caused avalanches at the ski resort of Brezovica, which has hampered driving in that area.

Another tourist attraction in Kosovo, the Mirusha Waterfall, has been frozen as the result of low temperatures.

Many people have also shared pictures of walking on the frozen surface of Lake Badovci, which is 21km from the capital.


Temperatures in Croatia fell to as low as -22C on Sunday, while very cold temperatures were also recorded in the coastal region of Dalmatia, causing even the sea to freeze.

Due to frozen water pipes, parts of the coastal city of Split and the city of Dubrovnik were left out running water, while the electricity supply has been cut to some villages in the Dubrovnik region.


Extreme cold weather in Montenegro saw temperatures in many areas drop to below -20C overnight, putting people across the country at risk.

A yellow alert code – for strong winds, snowdrifts, drifts, was issued on Friday.

In the capital Podgorica, temperatures fell to minus 7C on Sunday while several towns in the north of the country, such as Zabljak, Kolasin, Pljevlja, experienced heavy snowfall.

The coldest temperatures Europe has seen so far this winter have forced the authorities to close Montenegro's largest port at Bar for the first time in half a century.

In the northeast, some roads have been closed since Friday and the situation is complicated because of snowfall, strong wind and subsequent snowdrifts over the weekend.

Transport has been paralyzed in some areas in the north and dozens of villages were left without electricity for days.


Snow blizzards left the southern municipalities of Vranje, ALeksinac, Vladicin Han, Sjenica, Medvedja and Blace dealing with a state of emergency.

In Vladicin Han, snowdrifts up to three meter high left hamlets cut off, while most local roads are blocked.

River traffic has been stopped on the Sava and Danube and the Great Morava River is blocked with ice, which happens very rarely as thermal waters warm the Great Morava.

Children in Serbia are, however, enjoying a prolonged Christmas break until Wednesday, January 11, due to a flu epidemic.

In a red weather alert situation, “Roads of Serbia” has advised drivers to stay at home if possible, or use winter tires and chains if driving is necessary.

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