Vienna: Heavy snowfall has hit large parts of Europe, closing several ski stations, holding up deliveries of road salt needed to clear blocked roads, disrupting traffic and power supplies and leaving some remote villages cut off.
The west and centre of Austria have been carpeted inasmuch 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.
While demand for road salt has shot up, there had been “big problems in organising deliveries” due to numerous road closures, a spokeswoman for salt manufacturer Salinen Austria company told the APA agency.
In addition, some of the company’s 500 employees have not been able to get to its headquarters in the mountainous Salzkammergut region.
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.
Serbia’s state TV said 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,” 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.”
Airlines cancelled 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.