January 26, 2012 / 12:05 PM / 8 years ago

Romania uses army to save snow-trapped travellers

* Snowfalls expected to ease on Thursday evening

* PM says priority is to rescue bus passengers

* Blizzards also shut towns and port in Bulgaria

* Dozens of flights cancelled

By Ioana Patran

BUCHAREST, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Romania has drafted in the army to rescue hundreds of travellers stranded by blizzards that dumped up to a metre of snow in 24 hours, derailing a train and forcing authorities to shut down motorways and ports and cancel flights.

Police and ambulance crews had rescued 1,300 people by Thursday but another 900 were still stuck in their cars, a spokesman from Romania’s emergency services said. Authorities have banned traffic on Romania’s only two motorways until weather improves.

“Everything is white around me,” one woman, crying in her car, told Realitatea TV. “I’m almost paralysed with cold, with no food or supplies since 4.30 p.m. on Wednesday.”

Prime Minister Emil Boc said his priority would be to rescue passengers stuck on a bus stuck in Giurgiu county, on the border with Bulgaria.

“We will use the army’s armoured cars to save lives,” Boc told an emergency government meeting.

Snowfalls are not expected to ease until Thursday evening, but forecasters predict temperatures will then fall to below minus 20 degrees Celsius on Friday.

A snow drift derailed a train travelling between the Black Sea and Bucharest on Thursday morning but no one was killed or injured.

Four of the country’s ports on the Black Sea, including the largest, Constanta, were closed on Wednesday due to heavy winds and a snowstorm. To the south, the Bulgarian port of Burgas was also shut down.

Nearly 500 small towns, most in southern Romania, and 50 more in Bulgaria were left without electricity after trees and strong winds brought down power lines.

Around 30 local and international flights from Bucharest’s main airport were cancelled while others were delayed by up to three hours, the government said. (Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia; Writing by Radu Marinas; Editing by Ben Harding)

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