BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Heavy snow cut off access to villages, swamped the inside of a Swiss hotel and contributed during the last week to at least 20 weather-related deaths in Europe, including four reported Friday in the Balkans region and countries to its north.
The Bulgarian Red Cross said two snowboarders were killed died in an avalanche in southwest Bulgaria's Pirin Mountains. The Red Cross alleged in a statement that the snowboarders triggered the avalanche after ignoring severe weather warnings.
The driver of a snow plow also died Friday in Germany after his vehicle toppled into an icy river. In Albania, the Energy Ministry said a power company employee suffered a fatal heart attack while repairing damaged supply lines.
About 2,000 soldiers and other emergency workers in Albania were assigned to help people trapped by snow and to clear roads to restore access to rural areas.
Several municipalities in southwest Serbia have introduced emergency measures, warning of snow piling up on the roads and sealing off mountain villages, Serbian state TV reported Friday.
Most schools in the area closed down and 10 people had to be rescued from their homes. Strong winds complicated the conditions for emergency crews.
In neighboring Montenegro, meteorologist Dragan Buric said the first 10 days of January have been among the coldest in the country in decades.
"We have snow in January in the capital city (Podgorica) for the first time in nine years," Buric told Montenegrin state TV.
In the central Bosnian municipality of Kladanj, snow disrupted power supplies and cut phone lines. Zijad Vejzovic, from the local civil protection agency, said authorities declared an emergency.
"Because of heavy snow, in some parts over 1 meter-high, some of the roads have been blocked," he explained. "We need more machines. We have run out of resources and money."
In Germany and Austria, where heavy snow caused fatal avalanches and major disruptions in the past few days, the situation Friday was somewhat calmer.
Still, airlines canceled around 120 flights at Frankfurt Airport and 90 at Munich Airport on Friday because of concerns about snow, German news agency DPA reported.
Police in Lenggries, south of Munich, said the 48-year-old snow plow driver was rescued from the river after several hours and died in a hospital.
In the eastern German city of Chemnitz, all planned burials at the municipal cemetery through Monday were called off because of snow.
Austrian military helicopters on Friday flew a group of 66 German teenagers out of a mountain guest house where they had been stuck for several days.
In Salzburg, all parks, public gardens, play areas and cemeteries were closed Friday because of the danger of trees falling under the weight of snow.
Workers at Hotel Saentis in eastern Switzerland spent Friday shoveling snow from an avalanche that crashed through the exterior and piled up inside. Police said three people were slightly hurt when an avalanche hit the hotel in Schwaegalp on Thursday afternoon.