Record number of Bulgarians left without electricity after heavy snowfalls

Record number of Bulgarians left without electricity after heavy snowfalls

Sofia, March 9, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev- Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

The number of people left without electricity after the heavy continuous snowfalls of recent days is unprecedented, with about 850 places still cut off from the power supply, the head of Bulgaria’s fire safety and population protection directorate, Nikolai Nikolov, said on March 9.

Thirty-six transmission lines were not carrying current and for some, it would take several days before repairs were carried out, Nikolov told television station bTV.

Snowfall that began in earnest on March 6 has led to declarations of states of emergency of two regions in southern Bulgaria, as well as emergencies in various other places in southern, western and northern Bulgaria.

Nikolov said that Interior Ministry staff were assisting the Electricity System Operator and energy distribution companies to restore power supply, but the damage was extensive and the process could take days.

If possible, Bulgarian Air Force helicopters would join in efforts to check power lines on March 9.

“There are hundreds of tons of ice on the cables. Where ice has not broken them, trees brought down by heavy snow have done the job,” Nikolov said.

The ministry was ready to deliver medicine, food and essential goods where required, he said.

Nikolov said that 17 people were stranded in a hut in the mountains, but were in good health, had food and heating.

More than 2000 Interior Ministry staff had been deployed for a third day.

“Add in the Energy System Operator and energy company people and volunteers, more than 10 000 people are in the field,” Nikolov said. Anyone who wanted to volunteer should register at the district administrative headquarters or with the mayor.

The ministry again urged motorists to avoid trips unless absolutely necessary, and for skiers and snowboarders to stay away from places where there was a danger of avalanches.

The latter warning was repeated a day after three men from Sofia died while skiing off-piste in the Pirin mountains and were engulfed by an avalanche of tons of snow.