Slovenia Paralyzed By Thick Ice, Snow


Thousands of residents in south-western Slovenia braced themselves on Wednesday (February 5) as more bad weather was expected to hit the country later this week, following days of severe ice and snow storms which have already left 50,000 homes without powers and have caused millions of euros of damage.

Postojna, the administrative center of the hardest hit Notranjska region, was grounded to a halt, after three days of blizzards left the city trapped under thick layers of ice.

An emergency crisis center, ran by a team of volunteers, was set up on Wednesday to provide food and shelter for those in need.

"Our teams went out in the field, they went around residential buildings notifying people so they would know that we have set up a crisis center. Since they have no power, we think they don't even know that the center exists. That way we can let them know about it, so they can have the option - in case it is really necessary, if they are having difficulties living in their apartments - to spend the night in here," said Miha Uhelj, the center organizer and a member of the local boyscouts.
"We are fighting (the cold) every day, we went around shops in search of flashlights and other things that might help, but in many cases we found the stores to be empty," said pensioner Neno Amelio as he sipped from a bowl of steaming soup.

On Tuesday (February 4) the government said on its website it had asked for help from the European Union's civil defense team in the form of power generators for the affected areas.

An emergency worker from Austria, who arrived with a team on Monday (February 3) and which brought 26 generators to Postojna, said to be stunned at the scale of devastation.

"We have never seen anything like this. So much chaos and ice everywhere. It is crazy, this kind of thing has never happened over at our place (in Austria)," Mateusz Frym said.

Meanwhile the roads around Postojna were filled with firemen and forestry workers who were cutting down fallen trees and clearing up debris.

On Wednesday, the government lowered the excise on diesel fuel because of "increased use of transport agricultural and forestry machinery...for reparation of damage caused by ice."

With railways at a standstill and some petrol stations and even bank ATM machines frozen solid, the country faces millions of euros of losses through infrastructure damage and economic inertia.

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