Heavy Snow Traps More People In Eastern Europe

Published February 4, 2012 1:36PM (EST)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Eastern Europe's unrelenting and deadly cold snap produced another heavy snowfall in the Balkans on Saturday, trapping people in their homes and cars, causing power outages, and closing airports, railway stations and bus services.

In Bosnia, which woke up to more than three feet (one meter) of new snow — vehicles carrying about 30 people were trapped in a tunnel south of Sarajevo. They called local radio stations to appeal for help, saying they had children with them and were running out of fuel. But when snow plows arrived on the scene, they also got stuck Saturday, officials said.

"This is unbelievable. I can't remember snow like this in the past 30 years, said Mirsada Mitrovic, a resident of Sarajevo. "Maybe when I was a child, but since then nothing like this."

In neighboring Montenegro, a three-day snowstorm that has closed roads and the main airport in the capital, Podgorica, claimed its first victim: a 54-year-old man who died when an avalanche hit his car on a road near the town of Kolasin.

Even top government officials were waylaid.

The presidents of Serbia and Croatia, who had attended a summit at a ski resort near Sarajevo on Friday, were unable able to immediately leave the mountain after the meeting.

But the brutal winter weather didn't stop everyone.

In Moscow, where temperatures sank to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius), tens of thousands of people held another massive anti-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rally on Saturday.

The weeklong cold snap — Eastern Europe's worst in decades — has killed at least 176 people, many of them homeless people, especially in countries such as Ukraine.

On Saturday, Ukraine's Emergency Ministry said 122 people have died there over the past eight days, including 78 homeless people found on city streets. Nearly 1,600 other residents have been hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite. Snow and temperatures hovering around 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) prompted authorities to close schools and colleges, and to cancel bus services.

In Montenegro, police said that more than 100 people, including children on a school trip, were evacuated from the roads blocked by snow and taken to a shelter near Podgorica.

Early Saturday, rescuers reached a minibus with 11 passengers that was trapped for several hours by an avalanche in the Tara River canyon of Montenegro.

With rail services at a standstill across the small nation, Montenegro's government said it plans to hold an emergency session to discuss ways of coping with the cold snap.

In Austria, temperatures in the western city of Salzburg hovered around 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 Celsius) on Saturday, and a technical problem at a power plant left 10,000 households without heating on Saturday, Austrian news agency APA reported.

Germany recorded the coldest night of the year, with the thermometer plunging to -16 Fahrenheit (-27 Celsius) in the southern town of Oberstdorf, according to the German Weather Service.

The tough winter weather also has hit cities in southern Europe such as Rome, where snowfalls are rare.

On Saturday, the Italian capital woke up to its second snowfall in two days — four inches (10 centimeters) — and some residents used government-distributed shovels to clear piazzas.

Children, meanwhile, enjoyed another day off school.


AP correspondents contributed to this story from across Europe.

By Salon Staff

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