Rural municipalities call for greater government response.
By Drazen Remikovic and Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje and Zagreb -- 22/01/13
Record snowfalls are causing chaos in the Balkans. [AFP]
Officials in some Balkan countries are taking steps to prepare for more harsh winter weather after freezing temperatures and heavy snow caused chaos in some communities this month.
Macedonia Transport and Communications Minister Mile Janakieski said the government has established a co-ordinating body whose task will be to monitor conditions in the municipalities and help the people facing problems in the winter conditions after a snowfall left 6,000 without power for days. Many criticised the electricity provider for not restoring power immediately.
"We demand from the country and the rest of the institutions to react on such situations on time, whenever we have a need from them," Petar Avramovski, resident of the village Belchista, told SETimes.
"We lived in darkness. We were left with no food because of the blocked roads, and the ill people and pregnant women couldn't be carried to the city," Blagoja Krstanoski from Svinjishta told SETimes.
The mayors of Vevcani and Debarca plan to file a collective lawsuit against EVN -- the main hub for distribution of electricity in Macedonia -- for compensation of lost wages due to the forced closures of health centres, schools, municipalities and local businesses.
"There was no electricity for days. Vevcani is a municipality with 2,000 inhabitants and it is a shame that in 21st century we are facing such problems," Vevcani Mayor Pero Ilievski told SETimes.
Atanas Kovacevski, a spokesman for EVN Macedonia, said the reason for the long interruption was the inability of their teams to intervene in time.
"We repaired the damage, but what will happen next, it depends on the weather," Kovacevski told SETimes.
Ombudsman Ihxet Memeti said that he has created a procedure to determine the causes of what happened.
"We will ask for response from all the relevant institutions and companies on what exactly happened, which will determine whether and what actions will be taken," Memeti told SETimes.
Almost the entire north of Montenegro was without power last week due to the heavy snow.
Rajko Sebek, head of public relations for state electric company Elektroprivreda, said that all the teams are in the field trying to fix the problems.
"Currently, only two municipalities in the north of the country have no power, but we are trying our best to get to the solution. Besides that, rural areas in the north are also critical. The damage to the electro-energetic network is huge: more than a million euros," Sebek told SETimes.
In some places the snow has reached 2.5 metres, and residents of villages are still cut off from the world.
A record 80 centimeters of snow was measured in Zagreb last week, the most in 200 years, authorities said.
"Traffic has collapsed. Even trams stopped, that is something that never happened. Many people have been injured and some have died from the cold, mostly homeless. City authorities were working the best they could, but the snow was relentless. Now the situation is a little calmer, but the experts are announcing that the snow is coming back in a few days," Jurica Buslje, a teacher from Zagreb, told SETimes.
And while the north of the region is under snow, the eastern areas such as Dalmatia, Herzegovina, are flooded with heavy rain.
"The snow is very heavy because it is wet and therefore breaking the trees. Several vehicles were damaged in the past few days because of that. All roads on this area are passable and all our teams are on the field. We are ready for another snow impact," Zoran Novakovic, the head of Banja Luka's Department for Municipal Affairs, told SETimes.