East Europe's cold snap kills 17, cuts power

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PRAGUE — Snowstorms and freezing cold continued to plague eastern Europe and the Balkan peninsula for a fourth day, killing at least 17 people, blocking traffic and causing power failures.

Two more people were reported dead Tuesday in Serbia, bringing its death toll to six, according to broadcaster Radio Televizija Srbije. In Ukraine, at least 191 towns and villages suffered emergency power cuts, while traffic jams in Kiev are almost at critical levels, according to the Yandex traffic monitoring service.

Eastern Europe has been hit by a wave of cold Siberian air and above-normal snowfall, triggering a surge in demand for natural gas and electricity. Temperatures are to warm up by the weekend, according to meteorological services in the region.

“To avoid unforeseen traffic jams and similar consequences,” the Serbian Transport Ministry banned cargo transport, leaving trucks loaded with goods idling on Bulgaria’s border.

Temperatures dipped below minus 4 Fahrenheit throughout the region, boosting demand for electricity. Power consumption rose 8.5 percent in Serbia, which had to start importing electricity to meet the demand. Neighboring Croatia reported its worst winter storm since 1955.

The early onset of winter is benefiting Slovenia’s Alpine ski resorts such as Krvavec near the capital Ljubljana, which received as much as 2.6 feet of snow over the weekend.

Cold weather and lots of fresh snow helped increase bookings for Christmas and New Year holidays as well as for the 2013 skiing season, Mirjam Zerjav, the director of Kranjska Gora tourist office, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

“We opened our resort to skiers last weekend,” Zerjav said. “It will probably be a more positive season than we had last year.”

A snowstorm hit Montenegro, the smallest former Yugoslav republic on the Adriatic coast, Montenegrin news agency Mina reported.

The snow caused transport and power supply problems, with central and southern parts of the country left without power and authorities closing the airport in Podgorica where four flights from Serbia were canceled or returned.

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