Serbian authorities on Thursday said at least 11,000 villagers are trapped by heavy snow and blizzards in Serbia's mountains. Europe has in the past week been experiencing a "deep freeze," with the death toll in Eastern Europe having risen to 122.
Globe and Mail reports about 6,500 Serbian homes have been cut off from contact with the outside world, and emergency workers are trying to clear snow-logged roads to deliver supplies to isolated communities. According to Serbian emergency police official Predrag Maric, “We are trying everything to unblock the roads since more snow and blizzards are expected in the coming days." Maric said conditions were especially bad in Serbia's southwestern town of Sijenica where snow has been falling for 26 days and fuel supplies are running low.
The Washington Post reports helicopters evacuated dozens of people from snow-blocked villages in Serbia and Bosnia, and airlifted emergency food and medicine. In central Serbia, helicopters evacuated 12 people, including nine persons who were attending a funeral but could not return because of snow-choked roads. According to Dr. Milorad Dramacanin, who was involved in helicopter evacuations: “The situation is dramatic, the snow is up to five meters (16 1/2 feet) high in some areas, you can only see rooftops."
Another rescue official Milimir Doder, said: “We are trying to get through to several small villages, with each just a few elderly residents. All together some 200-300 people are cut off. We are supplying them for the second day with food and medication.”
According to Globe and Mail, a rescue helicopter landed in the hamlet of Ozerkovici on Mt. Romanija near Sarajevo, close to a Christian orthodox monastery where a solitary nun lives with a few villages and few residents nearby. Elsewhere, relief workers are evacuating sick people and delivering food and fuel.
Europe in "deep freeze"
Europe is witnessing the "harshest winter" seen in decades. Temperatures in some regions of Europe have dropped as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, causing power outages and disruption of daily activities. Schools, nurseries and airports have been closed. Deaths have also been reported. Fox News reports Polish government spokeswoman Malgorzata Wozniak, says most of the dead are homeless people, especially persons under the influence of alcohol who took shelter in unheated buildings.
Temperature in Warsaw on Wednesday was as low as minus 22 degrees Celsius, with people cramming into homeless people's homes to escape the freezing cold.
Sky News reports the European weather alert network Meteoalarm, has warned of "extremely dangerous" conditions, and authorities are warning people to prepare for a further drop in temperatures next week.
The Globe and Mail reports about 63 people have died from the cold in Ukraine in the last week, with 950 others admitted to hospitals because of hypothermia and frostbite. Emergency aid workers have set up 2,000 heated tents with hot food for homeless people.
In Romania, about 180 schools were closed, while in Bulgaria 16 towns have recorded the lowest temperatures in 100 years. Large sections of the Danube have frozen, hampering navigation both in Bulgaria and Romania. In Romania, three ships were trapped in the ice and efforts are on to free them. In Bulgaria, more than 1,000 schools have been closed.
Germany has recorded temperatures as low as minus 11 degrees Celsius, and in the eastern city of Magdeburg, a 55-year-old homeless man was found frozen to death. Ferry services were suspended on the Elbe river because of ice.
Winter sports in the NetherlandsGlobe and Mail reports that in other areas of Europe where the cold is having less adverse effects, the concerns are of a different nature.
In the Netherlands, a country where speed skating is very popular, boats were banned on Amsterdam's canals and waterways in the hope that the cold would turn the water to ice and give people opportunity to go skating. The mills and pumps that regulate water levels in the flood-prone low-lying areas were turned off to allow the canals freeze up.
The Dutch are hoping that the Elfstedentocht or "11 Town Tour," a speed skating race that takes participants on a 200-kilometre route over frozen canals and lakes through 11 towns in the north of the country, will be staged again this year since 1997.
According to the Globe and Mail, the race was first held in 1909 and has been staged only 15 times.