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Military planes fly food into snowbound towns

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  • AP
    A railway worker crosses snow covered tracks as a train departs from the main railway station in Bucharest

BUCHAREST, Romania >> Military planes flew in tons of emergency food Monday to towns and villages in eastern Romania where thousands have been stranded by blizzards. Some people had to cut tunnels through 15 feet of snow to get out of their homes.

Since the end of January, Eastern Europe has been pummeled by a record-breaking cold snap and the heaviest snowfall in recent memory. Hundreds of people, many of them homeless, have died and tens of thousands of others have been trapped by blocked roads inside homes with little heat.

Authorities declared an alert Monday in eastern Romania, where 6,000 people have been cut off for days. About a dozen major roads were closed, 300 trains canceled and more than 1,000 schools shut down.

In addition to the food flights, the defense ministry said 8,000 soldiers were clearing roads across Romania and helping people trapped by the snow.

The airport in the southern city of Craiova was closed after a plane with 48 people on board skidded during takeoff Monday into a pile of snow, breaking its propellers. A female passenger broke her leg after she jumped from the plane.

A tugboat on the Danube river, one of Europe’s key waterways, was breaking up ice between the Romanian ports of Sulina and Tulcea in eastern Romania. The boat was also bringing food to remote communities in the Danube Delta, where supplies have been affected after 700 kilometers (440 miles) of the river froze over last week in Romania alone. The Danube winds 1,785 miles (2,872 kilometers) through nine European countries to the Black Sea.

In Serbia, tens of thousands are still stranded by the snow, while schools and most businesses remained idle for the second week due to emergency measures to save energy.

An avalanche hit western Serbia late Sunday near the artificial lake of Perucac, sweeping away a man as his wife and child waited in the car nearby. Rescuers say divers will look for the man in the lake.

Emergency officials also plan to use helicopters to pull out sailors stuck on stranded boats on the Danube near the Serbian town of Smederevo, as well as to deliver food to a Danube island near Pancevo, north of the capital of Belgrade.

In Montenegro, rescuers started evacuating some 50 passengers who have been stranded for three days on a train that was blocked inside a tunnel by an avalanche. So far, a little girl and two elderly people have been pulled out and evacuated by helicopter, said Dragan Samardzic, Montenegro army chief of staff.

Montenegro has asked neighboring countries for bigger helicopters so it can evacuate more people at a time, he said.

Rescuers in southern Kosovo over the weekend pulled a 5-year-old girl alive from the rubble of a house flattened by a massive avalanche that killed both her parents and at least seven of her relatives. Her home in the remote mountain village of Restelica was buried under 33 feet (10 meters) of snow.

In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, the roof of the Grbavica stadium partially collapsed Monday under the weight of heavy snow but no one was injured. It was the second stadium roof collapse in Sarajevo in as many days, following one at the nearby Skenderija sports stadium that hosted ice skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Bosnia has been paralyzed with record snowfall for over a week. Temperatures as low as minus 22 Celsius (minus 8 Fahrenheit)have made it difficult to clear the snow.

North of Paris, icebreakers made their way through the frozen Canal St. Denis.


Jovana Gev contributed from Belgrade, Aida Cerkez from Sarajevo.

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