1/29/2014 3:07 PM
Cold grips parts of Europe; 4 die in Bulgaria
By VESELIN TOSHKOV
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A cold spell and snowstorms are sweeping across parts of central and eastern Europe, disrupting power supplies, travel and schools. Four people have died in Bulgaria over the past few days, and Wednesday was the coldest day of the year in Moscow.
In Britain, where the problem has been heavy rain, the government's emergency committee met Wednesday to find ways to help people living in villages that have been flooded since the Christmas period.
Bulgaria's heavy snow and strong winds have left dozens of villages in the eastern half of the Balkan country without electricity and water.
A 76-year-old man died after getting stuck in a snowdrift in the village of Povet, near the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Three other men have died in weather-related incidents in eastern villages in the last two days.
Many roads are closed to traffic while rescue teams try to bring food supplies to remote areas. Hundreds of schools remain closed, and the main Black Sea port of Varna was shut because of high winds.
Snow fell in the central Adriatic coast in Croatia, which is highly unusual because the region has a Mediterranean climate. The ice and snow in the seaside town of Sibenik prompted authorities to close down schools there. Heavy snow is also falling in neighboring Montenegro, causing road traffic problems.
Temperatures dipped to -22 C (-8 F) in Moscow and -31 C (-24 F) in surrounding regions, making it the coldest day of the year in the Russian capital.
The temperature was 10 degrees below average for this time of year and expected to drop further. Many Muscovites, however, welcomed the sun and blues skies of a real Russian winter after the gray clouds that hung over the capital for much of December and January.
"The weather is magnificent and the sun is shining," said Yulia Sukhorukova, who was taking pictures near the Kremlin. "I'm in a good mood. No problem with the frost — winter has just now arrived."
Big snowstorms have been hitting Romania in recent days, closing down schools and snarling road and rail traffic.
Romanian authorities declared a "red code" weather warning in six eastern counties, warning residents of blizzards, winds of up to 85 kph (52 mph) and near zero visibility. Heavy snow and high winds were forecast for the capital.
A 33-year-old woman traveling by train in northeastern Romania went into labor early and gave birth to a 3.5 kilogram (7.7 pounds) boy aided by a female ticket collector early Wednesday. She was transported from the train to a nearby hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Ana Rinder, who said both the mother and infant were doing well.
Railway authorities said more than 160 trains had been canceled as snow blocked railway tracks in southern and eastern Romania. About 5,000 people experienced power outages as the high winds disrupted electricity supplies in southern Romania.
Authorities said schools were expected to reopen Thursday in the capital, but would stay closed in others area where residents have been snowbound since the weekend, when blizzards swept through Romania.
In Britain, parts of the country, especially rural areas in Somerset in the southwest, have been submerged by the worst winter floods in years.
British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to send extra pumps to speed up the dredging of rivers once the water levels reduce, and officials said that the Ministry of Defense is in talks to deploy equipment and manpower to affected areas.
Associated Press journalists Vladimir Kondrashov in Moscow, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania; and Sylvia Hui in London, contributed to this report.
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