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Thousands trapped in Serbia villages, Rare snowfall hits Rome

At least 11,000 villagers have been trapped by heavy snow and blizzards in Serbia’s mountains, authorities said, as the death toll from Eastern Europe’s week-long deep freeze rose to 123, many of them homeless people. The harshest winter in decades has seen temperatures in some regions dropping to minus 30 C (minus 22 F) and below, and has caused power outages, traffic chaos and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries and airports.

On Friday, thick snowflakes fell in Rome, a rare occurrence for a capital usually blessed by a temperate climate, and other parts of the country experienced frigid temperatures unseen in years. The snowfall prompted authorities to stop visitors from entering the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, the former home of Rome’s ancient emperors.

The director of the Colosseum, Rossella Rea, said the sites were closed out of fears that visitors could slip on ice. The last substantial snowfalls in Rome were in 1985 and 1986, though there have been other cases of lighter snow since then, including in 2010. Snow began falling in the late morning on Friday, leaving a light dusting on trees and cars and forming slush on the roads. It wasn’t clear if there would be any significant accumulation on the ground. The north of the country has also been gripped by snow and ice that is disrupting train travel.

The stranded in Serbia are stuck in some 6,500 homes in remote areas that cannot be reached due to icy, snow-clogged roads with banks reaching up to five meters (16 feet). Emergency crews were pressing hard to try to clear the snow to deliver badly needed supplies, and helicopters were dispatched to some particularly remote areas in Serbia and neighboring Bosnia. On Bosnia’s Mt. Romanija, near Sarajevo, a chopper thumped down in the small hamlet of Ozerkovici, where a single nun lives in a Serb Christian Orthodox monastery surrounded by just a few village residents.

Wrapped tight in a black jacket and a scarf, Sister Justina greeted aid workers at her monastery: “I live alone here,” she said, but noted “God will help me.” In Serbia, relief efforts are concentrated on evacuating the sick, on food delivery and gasoline distribution.

“We are trying everything to unblock the roads since more snow and blizzards are expected in the coming days,” Serbian emergency police official Predrag Maric told The Associated Press. He said “the most dramatic” situation is near Serbia’s southwestern town of Sijenica, where it has been freezing cold or snowing for 26 days, and diesel fuel supplies used by snowplows are running low.

…(Today’s Zaman)

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February 3, 2012 - Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , ,

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