At least 3 killed in avalanche in Kosovo

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 11, 2012 2:20 PM
At least 3 killed in avalanche in Kosovo

An avalanche hit a village in Kosovo's mountainous south Saturday, killing a married couple and their 17-year-old son and leaving nine others missing, police said, as heavy snow continued to blanket the Balkans.

The village of Restelica, where the deaths occurred, and its region bordering Macedonia and Albania have been blocked by snow for several days, Kosovo police spokesman Baki Kelani said. NATO peacekeepers have been called in to help local authorities in the rescue operation.

In neighboring Montenegro, authorities proclaimed a state of emergency after the heaviest snow there in 63 years sealed off hundreds of villages, shut down roads and railways and closed the main airport in the tiny Balkan state on Saturday.

Snow virtually sealed off the capital Podgorica, closing its airport and hampering rail and road traffic. At 52 centimeters (20 inches) high, it was the biggest snowfall in the capital since 1949.

The state rail company said an avalanche had blocked a train's route near the mountain town of Kolasin and another engine had to rescue the 50 passengers.

The cold snap in Europe, which began in late January, has killed hundreds of people _ most of them homeless. Boat traffic on the frozen Danube river _ one of Europe's key waterways _ has been unable to move for the longest time in recent memory.

In Serbia, overnight snowfall hampered operations to reach about 20,000 households in remote villages, which have been cut off since the blizzards started more than two weeks ago. The country has been hit by electricity shortages, with authorities ordering a public holiday Friday to preserve energy.

Schools and universities will be closed to save electricity for the whole of next week.

High winds and blizzards closed many roads and highways on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia on Saturday, with unprecedented snow blanketing some of its islands and tourist resorts. About 3,000 households in western Croatia were affected by power cuts because of the bad weather.

Below-freezing temperatures also persisted across Germany. In Hamburg, tens of thousands of people crowded onto the frozen Aussenalster lake in the city center.

In Italy, farm lobbies said that weeks of freezing cold and a string of snowstorms have prevented fruit, vegetables and meat from reaching market, leaving around 100,000 tons of products to rot. Dairy farmers also warned that unless roads linking them to markets are cleared soon, milk will spoil.

Snow also continued to fall in the country's north-central regions, accentuating problems in towns in the Apennine mountains and near the Adriatic still struggling with several snowstorms in two weeks. The capital, Rome, dug its way out of its second snowfall in a week. Before this winter, its last significant snowstorm was in 1986. Several Italian airports had delays or cancellations.

Snow also hit southern Italy. In the town of Castelvenere, a funeral had to be canceled when snow blocked the arrival of a coffin to church.

___

Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Nebi Qena in Athens, Greece, contributed to this report.