Hungary paralyzed by unseasonable snowstorm
Updated: 2013-03-16 01:08
BUDAPEST - An unseasonable snowstorm accompanied by high winds swept through Hungary overnight, isolating settlements and trapping thousands of people in their cars Friday.
Interior Minister Sandor Pinter has declared the country a disaster area, saying that this type of weather-disaster is unprecedented in Hungary.
The gale force winds tore down power lines, leaving one hundred thousand people without electricity. The wind piled up snowdrifts that have isolated villages and blown tractor-trailers crosswise on highways, which blocked major roads, trapping thousands of motorists. The winds also ripped out railroad power lines leaving nearly 20 passenger trains stranded.
March 15 is a national holiday in Hungary, and hundreds of ceremonial events had been planned. All were cancelled as the country attempted to dig itself out, in some places with the help of army tanks.
Austria sent a convoy of emergency vehicles to help free motorists along the Budapest-Vienna motorway who have been unable to move for 14-15 hours.
Gyorgy Bakondi, chief of the National Disaster Management Authority, said that they had opened 227 emergency stations where stranded travelers can get warm. The authority reported over 5,000 cars trapped on highways.
The social media has worked overtime to report trapped individuals and appealing for people in the neighborhood to help them. Many people have also used social utility networks to offer overnight shelter to stranded travelers.
People are being advised to stay home and not to attempt to travel by road or rail.
Budapest International Airport, however, has been operating more or less normally except one plane coming from Munich was diverted to Vienna at the height of the storm.