Serbia in 'superhuman' fight to restore power to eastern town

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2014 4:28 AM

By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Electricity workers in Serbia struggled through snow, ice and treacherous terrain on Thursday to restore electricity to an eastern town left shivering without power, heating or running water for a fourth day.

Majdanpek was cut off from the grid on Monday afternoon as ice and high winds brought down power lines in the hilly region near Serbia's eastern border with Romania. Power was briefly restored late Wednesday, only to go down again within an hour.

Soldiers and police were deployed to supply some 5,000 residents with heaters, blankets and generators.

"The main problem is that the terrain is very rugged, inaccessible," Predrag Maric, the head of Serbia's Department for Emergency Situations, told Reuters. "Technicians are dangling over deep ravines from cables covered with an inch of ice."

"We expect power to be restored later in the day, but setting deadlines would not be prudent," he said.

Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic, in Majdanpek, said: "It's a superhuman effort."

With the temperature near freezing, the city hospital was running off generators while residents huddled at home.

"I'm fortunate: at home we have a wood stove and 100-year-old well, so we're okay for heating and water. I dug out an old oil lamp so we have light and we're charging the cell phone on a car battery," said Majdanpek metal worker Petar Radulovic.

"It's the people in apartment blocks who have big problems -- no heating, no water, no elevators, no light, nothing."

(Additional reporting and writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Catherine Evans)