Europe shivers amid record snowfall and low temperatures
More than a dozen people have been killed across the centre of the continent during an extreme cold snap
Central and eastern Europe is facing one of its coldest and snowiest Januarys in recent years, with Germany, Austria and Serbia hit by falls of up to three metres of snow that is threatening to cut off remote villages and is shutting down schools and ski resorts across the continent.
Serbia’s state TV said on Friday that six municipalities in the southwest of the country have introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages.
Most schools there have closed down and emergency crews have distributed supplies to some residents. Strong winds have created occasional snowdrifts, further complicating the situation.
In neighbouring Montenegro, three towns on the Adriatic coast remained without electricity on Friday after a snowstorm on Thursday hit a key power distribution line.
Meteorologist Dragan Buric said the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest in the country in decades.
“We have snow in January the capital city (Podgorica) for the first time in nine years,” Mr Buric told Montenegrin state TV.
In the central Bosnian municipality of Kladanj, snow has disrupted power supplies and cut phone lines. Zijad Vejzovic, from the local civil protection agency, said authorities have declared an emergency.
“Because of heavy snow, in some parts over one metre high, some of the roads have been blocked,” he explained. “We need more machines. We have run out of resources and money.”
Meanwhile, in Germany and Austria, where heavy snow has caused fatal avalanches and major disruptions in the past few days, the situation on Friday was somewhat calmer.
Still, airlines canceled around 120 flights at Frankfurt Airport and 90 at Munich Airport on Friday because of concerns about snow, German news agency DPA reported.
In the eastern German city of Chemnitz, all planned burials at the municipal cemetery through Monday have been called off because of the snow.
In eastern Switzerland, police said three people were slightly hurt when an avalanche hit a hotel at Schwaegalp on Thursday afternoon.
The west and centre of Austria have been carpeted in as much as three metres of snow, cutting off some areas.
“We can say statistically... that such quantities of snow above 800m altitude only happen once every 30 to 100 years,” Alexander Radlherr from Austria’s Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics said Thursday.
Several ski stations in the regions of Styria, Upper and Lower Austria have also had to close, out of fear of avalanches, trees toppling under the weight of snow, or being cut off from the electricity network.
Much of the country is on its highest avalanche alert level, with seven skiers and snowshoe hikers having died since Saturday and two hikers missing.
Most of the victims perished in avalanches but emergency services say two of them died when falling into deep snowdrifts and suffocating.
Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters have been working alongside other public employees and volunteers to clear roads and roofs buried in the snowfall.
Brigadier Anton Waldner, army commander for the Salzburg region, told AFP that this year’s exceptional snowfall had left his men with a “difficult situation”, as soldiers worked to clear snow off the roof of a school in the town of Lungoetz in huge two-metre high blocks.
In the Czech Republic, around 9,000 households were without electricity on Thursday after heavy snow in regions bordering Germany and Austria.
On Norway’s Arctic Svalbard islands, more than 100 people were evacuated as a precaution because of a storm and the risk of avalanches. The Svalbard archipelago is 800km north of Norway’s mainland.
Norwegian news agency NTB said 29 dwellings at the foot of the Sukkertoppen mountain were evacuated, and a school, kindergartens, a sports facility and public library closed. In the north of mainland Norway, authorities warned of a risk of avalanches.
The Swedish Meteorological Institute on Thursday sent out warnings for a storm and heavy snowfalls over northern Sweden.
Updated: January 11, 2019 11:20 PM