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Serbia: 11,000 trapped by severe weather

Updated: 2012-02-04 07:40
( China Daily)

BELGRADE, Serbia - 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 deep freeze rose to 123, many of them homeless people.

The harshest winter in decades has seen temperatures in some regions dropping to -30 C and below, and has caused power outages, traffic chaos and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries and airports.

Serbia: 11,000 trapped by severe weather

A woman looks out of a window covered in frost on a bus in Bucharest, Romania, on Thursday. [Photo/Agencies] 

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 5 meters. 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 said.

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.

Newly reported deaths on Thursday included 20 in Ukraine, nine in Poland, eight in Romania, and one more each in Serbia and the Czech Republic.

Martyna, pregnant and unemployed, said she was grateful to find a place there after her family rejected her and her partner.

"This is the only safe place for me, where I can live and hide - from this sudden cold, too," the 22-year-old said. "I have nowhere else to go." She refused to give her last name, saying she didn't want anyone to know she was staying there.

In Japan, heavy snow triggered avalanches, disrupted transport networks and left at least 56 people dead, officials said on Thursday.

In one of the country's coldest winters in recent years, 43 people have died as they removed snow from roofs or roads, while seven more were crushed by heavy loads of snow falling from buildings or other structures, the disaster management agency said.

Some experts have warned that worse days are still ahead.

In particular, Habibullo Ismailovich Abdussamatov, head of the space research laboratory at Russia's Pulkovo Observatory, is convinced that "the next bicentennial cycle of deep cooling with a Little Ice Age" between 2044 and 2066 will start in about three years.

"In the nearest future we will observe a transition (between global warming and global cooling) period of unstable climate changes with the global temperature fluctuating around its maximum value reached in 1998 to 2005," he wrote in the February edition of Applied Physics Research journal.

AP-AFP-China Daily