Snow, heavy rain in Balkans cause floods, disrupt traffic

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Stranded residents try to reach their cars in the flooded street, following heavy rain and snowfall in Fushe Kosove, Kosovo on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Many roads have been blocked and bridges damaged, according to the authorities. There have been no casualties or lost livestock so far. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

BELGRADE – Days of heavy rain and snow across the Balkans left homes and fields flooded Monday, disrupted traffic on highways and at ports and caused power outages.

In Serbia, authorities on Monday started clearing up tons of garbage that was clogging a southwestern lake after it was swept off from landfills by overflowing rivers. Emergency measures were announced in the southern Doljevac and Vlasotince municipalities, where rescue teams helped more than two dozen people evacuate their homes.

The state RTS television reported that numerous homes, barns and fields were flooded and villages were left without drinking water after days of rain and snow around the southern town of Leskovac and nearby areas.

In central and eastern Serbia, thousands of people were left without electricity as heavy snow collapsed distribution lines. Serbia's state power company EPS said Monday they were working to restore power.

Authorities urged drivers not to take to the road unless absolutely necessary because of heavy snow.

Traffic disruptions and speed limits due to snow were reported in Croatia, where a bus overturned early Monday on the main east-west highway, injuring eight people.

Floods were reported in Albania and Kosovo, where days of heavy rain mixed with snowy weather.

Thousands of acres of land were flooded in western Albania and bridges and roads have been damaged, leaving villages isolated and forcing emergency deliveries of water to hundreds of people.

Power outages were also reported, which meant that some schools could not reopen Monday as authorities struggled to handle water levels at the main hydropower system on the Drini River. The army, police and local emergency teams stepped in to assist isolated residents in Shkoder, Lezha and Durres, where major flooding in 2010 caused devastation.

In Kosovo, officials were talking with NATO-led peacekeepers over how to help flood-hit areas in the west where people have been forced to evacuate their homes. A house in the village of Fushe belonging to 60-year-old Muj Zabeli was flooded and seriously damaged, but Zabeli said he was getting little help.

“No one is interested,” he complained. “You may suffer a loss here and no one would care.”

Slippery roads and strong winds prompted authorities to ban trucks with trailers and double-decker buses on some roads, as many Adriatic Sea ferry connections were halted.

The snow has made the situation even harder for residents in central Croatia, which was hit by a major earthquake on Dec. 29. Many people cannot stay in their damaged homes and have been sleeping in containers.

Heavy rains further south in Montenegro damaged a fortress wall in the southern town of Ulcinj, near the border with Albania.

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Llazar Semini contributed from Albania and Predrag Milic from Montenegro.