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Heavy snow paralyzes parts of Bulgaria, Romania; 3 dead as ship sinks in rough seas

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Posted: January 3, 2008 2:39 p.m.
Updated: January 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    SOFIA, Bulgaria — A bitterly cold winter storm pummeled parts of Europe on Thursday, killing at least three sailors when a ship sank in rough seas, and piling up snow that stranded thousands at airports, on mountain roads and in remote villages.
    Authorities in northeastern Bulgaria declared a state of emergency, with the army called in to help civil defense officials clear roads and reach stranded motorists.
    A cold spell also caused problems in neighboring Romania, where Bucharest’s two main airports were closed. Parts of Turkey and Greece, as well as Western Europe, were also affected.
    Some 311 Bulgarian villages were left without electricity and dozens were cut off without food supplies or fresh water, authorities said.
    The northern Danube municipality of Ruse declared a state of emergency after heavy snow blocked many roads, said Andrei Ivanov, chief of the Balkan country’s civil defense service.
    Temperatures fell to 5 below zero, while snow drifts reached more than 6 feet in parts of the country and hundreds of motorists were trapped on mountain roads.
    At least three crewmen were killed when a Bulgarian ship carrying scrap metal sank during a storm on the Azov Sea between Ukraine and Russia, officials said.
    The Vanessa was carrying a crew of 10 and a Ukrainian pilot who was guiding the ship as it approached the Kerch Strait, which connects the Azov Sea to the Black Sea, said Sergei Petrov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry for southern Russia.
    Rescuers pulled one survivor and three bodies from the sea, where waves were as high as 10 feet, Petrov said.
    Thousands of passengers were stranded in Romania after Bucharest’s two main airports were closed due to heavy snowfall. The snow also blocked many roads in the south, forcing the closure of at least one border crossing with Bulgaria and prompting train delays.
    In Turkey’s capital of Ankara, snow caused traffic jams and accidents, but no injuries were reported.
    Temperatures in Greece fell to 1 below zero in the north of the country, where snow blanketed roads.
    In Western Europe, ice and snow disrupted traffic. The Mont-Blanc tunnel linking France and Italy was closed to trucks until Friday because sharp temperature differences between the two sides threatened to disrupt the tunnel’s ventilation, traffic authorities said.
    A Boeing 737 arriving from Marrakech, Morocco, slid off an icy runway at an airport in Deauville, northern France, airport authorities said. The plane, operated by Atlas Blue, came to a halt in grass. The 169 passengers were evacuated unharmed.
    ———
    Associated Press writer Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, contributed to this story.

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