Sofia Echo

South Eastern Europe

UN agency issues flood warning as Danube thaws

Author: The Sofia Echo staff Date: Tue, Feb 21 2012 2700 Views
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Destructive floods caused by the rapid thawing of the Danube River could add to the fatalities from an already harsh European winter, the head of the United Nations agency dealing with disaster risk reduction said on February 21 2012.

In a statement, quoted by the UN News Centre, Margareta Wahlström, the head of the secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, voiced concern for the consequences faced by those countries traversed by the Danube, whose sudden thaw is taking many by surprise.

"The thaw is now setting in along the Danube. While thousands of people remain snowbound from Serbia to Bulgaria, there are warning signs that destructive floods will add to the loss of life and economic assets particularly in places where there is an absence of flood management infrastructure such as dams and dikes," Wahlström said.

According to media reports, the quick thawing of Europe’s second longest river has sent massive ice floes careening into boats and bridges, causing widespread damage to river vessels. The cold front had previously frozen large tracts of the waterway, making it unnavigable in areas of Germany and the Balkans.

"This severe winter in which hundreds of people have died has highlighted several weaknesses in our built environment and our ability to prepare for worst–case scenarios," Wahlström said. "Vulnerable communities across Europe have been cut off from transport, schools, health facilities and electricity in many cases."

The cold spell which has paralysed much of Europe also reportedly killed more than 300 people in Ukraine, Poland, France and Italy as extremely low temperatures and substantial snowfalls blanketed the continent.

Wahlström commended Bulgaria’s decision to inspect over 500 dams throughout the country and to release the water from some dams and reservoirs to contain the Danube’s eventual floodwaters.

However, she also urged governments to undertake better planning for the possibility of future extreme winter weather patterns.

"The unpredictability of severe weather events leads to high human and financial costs," she said. "More focus on winterisation planning will be a wise investment in the coming years."

In spite of the relatively warmer weather coming to Bulgaria in the next few days, there is no danger of rivers and dams overflowing, Bulgarian Academy of Science hydrologists said on February 20 2012 – contradicting earlier warnings of the dangers of flooding.
According to a February 21 report by Bulgarian National Radio, there would be more clouds for a while over Bulgaria on February 22.

Lowest daytime temperatures will be between minus eight degrees Celsius and minus three degrees, around zero in the remote southwestern regions and along the Black Sea coastline.

Sofia was expected to see a low of minus four and a high of seven degrees Celsius.

Across the country, the highest daytime temperatures would vary between three and eight degrees, up to 10C to 11 degrees in the remote southwestern and southeastern regions.

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