The heaviest snowfalls in more than a decade cut the power for over 1,000 cities, towns and villages in Bulgaria and blocked key roads and railways, with emergency teams still struggling to tackle all the damage for the third day in a row on November 27.
Bulgaria has faced more severe rain and snowfalls this year and many experts say this is the result of climate change. In early September, heavy rains flooded Bulgaria’s Black Sea southern coast and took four lives.
The snowfall that began on November 25 took two lives and left 36 other people injured. It began after an unusually warm autumn, and quickly covered trees whose leaves have not yet fallen. That brought down many trees, some of them onto cars, power cables and buildings.
More than half the capital Sofia had power shortages for hours, some areas for more than 24 hours. In some of those areas, people were also without running water as pumping stations had no electricity.
“I am struggling to take my car out, it is below a fallen tree along with three others,” Petia, 45, a banker, told bne IntelliNews.
She added that her neighbours called the emergency services at 6 a.m. but as over 1,500 people had made calls, the authorities were unable to deal with them quickly.
“I have been cleaning roads since 4 a.m. and I am freezing already, I am completely exhausted but cannot take a rest,” Roberto, 50, the owner of small stables, said.
He volunteered to clean mountain roads in Vladaya, a mountainous Sofia district. Despite his efforts, many cars were stuck on the ice unable to move, their owners not able to get to grocery stores or return home.
Sofia mayor Vassil Terziev said that experts will work through the night to deal with all the damage in the city. Dozens of volunteers also joined in clearing the snow and dealing with fallen trees and other damage.
Meanwhile, several buses were blocked overnight waiting for the authorities to clean the roads and rescue them.
On November 26, the government called an emergency meeting with all relevant authorities to plan recovery works across the country. Despite that, thousands of people still had no electricity in the evening of November 27.
In some villages, schools stayed closed on November 27, while in others the start of the school day was delayed to give time for access roads to be cleared.
The opposition and President Rumen Radev accused Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov's government of incompetence and being responsible for the slow progress of recovery works.
Heavy snowfalls hit other countries in the region too. In Romania, more than 400 areas were left without electricity and the national meteorology administration has issued a red weather warning for the eastern counties of Braila, Constanta, Galati and Tulcea, where winds were forecast to reach as high as 100 kph.
In neighbouring Moldova, one man died after the vehicle he was in skidded off the road and crashed into a tree.
Meanwhile, in Montenegro the government formed a crisis team, as heavy snowfalls are expected in the coming days.