BLIZZARDS swept parts of eastern Europe on Friday, causing at least five deaths, closing roads and resulting in traffic accidents, travel delays and medical evacuations.
In Poland, the cold snap caused five deaths in 24 hours. Three people died from hypothermia while two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning heaters they used when the cold weather set in, the government Security Center said Friday.
In Romania, one of the worst affected areas, authorities said main highways in the south and east were made impassable due to the heavy snow. More than 40 trains were not running due to snow on the track.
Senior emergency situations official Raed Arafat said authorities evacuated 622 people who needed dialysis and 126 pregnant women.
Serbia’s state television reported that 17 people, including six children, were injured in a pileup caused by the wintry weather on the outskirts of the southern city of Nis.
Heavy snow and strong winds disrupted traffic in southern Serbia and snow piled up to two-meters (6.6 feet) high, closing several roads. Local official Dragan Dimitrijevic said emergency crews were “helpless against the wind.”
“New piles form almost immediately after we clear up,” he said.
Turkey’s national carrier, Turkish Airlines, canceled 192 domestic and international flights that were scheduled for Saturday after heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds were forecast for Istanbul.
Bulgarian authorities said some 650 villages across the country were without electricity due to high winds and heavy snow, while the national road service said that snow plows were unable to operate due to the conditions.
Temperatures are forecast to drop to minus 20 C (minus 4 F) at the weekend and Bulgarian authorities issued a severe weather warning for 20 out of the country’s 28 regions, telling people to stay indoors.
In Croatia, the temperatures dipped below freezing even along the country’s Adriatic coast where high winds halted some ferry traffic to the islands and over the bridges along the coastline.
In Montenegro, bad weather caused traffic delays and authorities urged people to stay indoors. Villages were virtually cut off in the worst-hit northern part of the country.
In Poland where temperatures dropped to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 F) early Friday in the southern mountainous region, winds whipped up to 90 kph (56 mph), and more than 2,000 households were without heating in the southern Rybnik area, after a major pipeline malfunctioned in the frigid weather.
Elsewhere, temperatures in Germany plunged as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 Fahrenheit) overnight, after storm “Axel” sucked in icy air from the Arctic.
In northern Europe, which is accustomed to subzero temperatures, it was bitterly cold but sunny, plummeting to minus 23 C (minus 9.4 F) Friday morning in Helsinki, Finland, the same temperature recorded in Latvia.
Strong gales off the coast of western Norway caused the cancellation of a ferry, and on a major rail section west of Copenhagen, Denmark, there were delays due to the icy weather.
Snowstorms paralyzed traffic and cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in Bulgaria on Friday while forcing atomic energy producer Nuclearelectrica in neighboring Romania to shut down its No. 1 reactor.
Blizzards caused power blackouts in more than 770 Bulgarian towns, authorities said. It also closed parts of the Trakiya motorway in southeastern Bulgaria, all roads in a swathe of the northeast and the main A-2 motorway linking the Romanian capital Bucharest with the Black Sea port of Constanta.
State-owned Nuclearelectrica said it had disconnected its No. 1, 706-megawatt reactor on the Danube river from the national grid because of heavy snow that interfered with a power evacuation line. Nuclearelectrica’s two reactors supply about a fifth of Romania’s electricity.
The fierce winter weather also forced the closure of Varna airport on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast for at least eight hours, delayed dozens of flights at Bucharest international airport. —Agencies