Slovenia paralyzed by thick ice, more snow forecast

POSTOJNA, Slovenia Tue Feb 4, 2014 11:13am EST

1 of 2. A women with child drags a sledge next to a fallen pillar of the main power lines in Strmca February 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Srdjan Zivulovic

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POSTOJNA, Slovenia (Reuters) - Snow and ice has paralyzed Slovenia, bringing down trees and electricity pylons, cutting power from 50,000 homes and causing millions of euros of damage.

Three days of blizzards inflicted "the worst devastation in living memory" in the small Alpine country, local media said. More bad weather is expected this week.

Fluctuating temperatures caused snow to half melt and then freeze again, leaving parked cars entombed in a thick shell of ice.

In and around the city of Postojna, in the west, people used axes to try to free their cars from ice 15 cm (6 inches) thick.

With railways at a standstill and some petrol stations and even bank ATM machines frozen solid, the country faced millions of euros of losses through infrastructure damage and economic inertia. Slovenia's busiest port, Koper, ground to a halt.

Slovenia has suffered the worst weather in the region, which also hit neighboring Croatia. The environment agency warned that more snow was on its way.

"After a brief 24-hour respite, a new period of bad weather is coming," the agency's Brane Gregorcic told a news conference. "It may not be heavy, but it will be an additional burden and create new troubles."

Roughly half of Slovenia's forests, 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres), has been damaged, authorities have estimated.

An added risk is flooding once the ice melts, experts warned.

Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek said: "We will do everything we can to stabilize the situation as soon as possible, but it will take a while."

(Reporting by Almir Demirovic and Maja Zuvela; Writing by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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