Romania to launch early warning system after powerful storm kills eight

Romania to launch early warning system after powerful storm kills eight
Storm clouds over Timisoara.
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest September 18, 2017

The Romanian government decided on September 18 to launch an integrated warning system for the population in case of high risk situations, after eight people were killed in a sudden powerful storm that hit the western part of the country a day earlier.

Short but very strong storms affected 212 towns and villages in 15 counties and caused the death of eight people and injured 137 more, according to the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (IGSU). 137 building roofs were damaged and 290 trees were brought down by the strong wind. Many houses were left without electricity.

The early warning system, named Sistem Alert, will be jointly developed and implemented by Romania’s telecom market regulator ANCOM, IGSU, the Special Telecommunications Service (STS) and mobile phone operators, the government said in a statement.

Sistem Alert will transmit alert messages on mobile phones, according to the emergency situations that come up at the regional level, such as extreme weather phenomena, major fires and explosion risk, the government said.

At the same time, the authorities will start a campaign to inform the population about the new system.

Prime Minister Mihai Tudose visited Timisoara, Romania's third largest city and the biggest urban area in western Romania, to tour some of the damaged areas before announcing the plans for the system. 

Tudose had previously been criticised for his response to the storm, reportedly saying "What can we do? Have a law that stops the wind blowing?" on September 17, according to AP.

President Klaus Iohannis stressed the importance of an early warning system in a September 18 statement, stressing that protecting citizens' lives and protecting people in extreme circumstances should be the priorities of the government. 

“The storms that hit Romania with extreme violence on Sunday show the vulnerabilities and the inefficiency of the population protection system and disaster risk reduction,” the president’s statement said. 

“In the context of the increasing frequency and intensity of meteorological phenomena, no malfunctions can be tolerated in the internal communication process of state institutions, which have the duty not only to intervene to remedy the consequences of disasters, but also to prevent these by disseminating timely information to warn the population of imminent dangers.”

The storm on September 17 lasted only 15 minutes and the wind reached a speed of 90 km per hour, according to press reports. In Huedin, the storm ripped off parts of a hospital roof and a school roof, while in Timisoara, a man was killed after the entrance gate to the town fell on the car he was in. The gate had been refurbished in 2015.