Snowstorm wreaks havoc in Romania and Bulgaria, ports closed

People walk with dogs through a park during snowfall in Sofia, Bulgaria on Jan 17, 2016.
People walk with dogs through a park during snowfall in Sofia, Bulgaria on Jan 17, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

BUCHAREST (REUTERS) - Heavy snowfall and strong winds closed Romania's Black Sea ports including the main port of Constanta, and shut dozens of roads while snowstorms and torrential rains cut electricity to hundreds of towns in Bulgaria, authorities said on Sunday (Jan 17).

Blizzards dumped up to half a metre of snow in 12 hours in Romania, disrupting trains and forcing authorities to shut down all schools in Bucharest and nearby counties.

There were no reports of victims but emergency services said they were prepared to intervene, with about 6,000 policemen, gendarmes and firefighters currently involved in various missions across the country, the interior ministry said.

Snowfalls are not expected to ease until Monday in Romania and forecasters predict temperatures will fall to below minus 18 degrees Celsius next week.

Dozens of villages in southern Romania were left without electricity after trees and strong winds brought down power lines.

Heavy snowfall in northern and central Bulgaria and torrential rains in the southern part of the Balkan country have left tens of thousands of people in over 1,000 villages and towns without power, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said.

An avalanche blocked a road linking the Bulgarian capital Sofia with the northwestern town of Montana. The heavy rainfall in southern Bulgaria closed the border checkpoint with Turkey, triggered mudslides and caused flooding in several villages.