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Thursday January 17th, 2019 4:21PM

Snow in the Balkans disrupts traffic, closes down schools

By The Associated Press
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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Heavy snowfall this week in the Balkans has closed down schools, left some remote villages cut off and disrupted traffic and power supplies in many areas in the region. Authorities in Bulgaria said two snowboarders died in an avalanche on Friday.

The Bulgarian Red Cross said in a statement that their bodies were found at noon (1100GMT) on Friday in the Pirin Mountains in the southwest of the country.

The statement said that the snowboarders themselves had caused the avalanche, apparently ignoring warnings and weather alerts that have been issued by the authorities after snow also caused traffic disruptions and power outages.

Albania also reported a snow-related death on Friday after a power company employee suffered a heart attack while repairing damaged supply lines, according to the government's energy ministry.

That brought to at least 20 the number of weather-related deaths reported in Europe over the past week.

About 2,000 soldiers and other emergency workers have taken part in nation-wide efforts in Albania to help those trapped in the snow and clear the roads to reach blocked rural areas. Many schools remained closed.

Serbia's state TV said Friday that several 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 while 10 people have been rescued from their homes. Strong winds have created occasional snowdrifts, further complicating the situation.

In neighboring Montenegro, authorities on Friday managed to restore electricity to three towns on the Adriatic coast hours after a snowstorm on Thursday hit a key power distribution line cutting power supplies.

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," 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 1 meter-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.

Austrian military helicopters flew a group of 66 German teenagers out of a mountain guest house in central Austria on Friday after they had been stuck there for several days. In Salzburg, all parks, public gardens, play areas and cemeteries were closed on Friday because of the danger of trees falling under the weight of snow.

___

Geir Moulson in Berlin, Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, contributed to this report.

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