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22 villages cut off: Over meter-and-half deep snowdrifts, people pray, fear repeat of 2017 winter

"We pray to God that telephone service might resume so that we can at least call if someone is in danger," says Novica Cvetkovic

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Due to snow drifts exceeding one meter in some places, the area of ​​Poljanica near Vranje, comprising 22 mountain villages, has been practically cut off from the world.

According to locals, everything came to a halt on Wednesday when heavy snow hit the region in a short amount time. The regional road from Vranje to the village of Vlase has not been cleared, while there are power outages in several villages.

Novica Cvetkovic, one of the locals, says all of Poljanica has not had electricity until Thursday at 7:30 am.

Sela kod Vranja

Photo: Private archive

"There are no MTS, Telenor and VIP signals from the Vlase transmitter, no TV signal, no internet. Some public institutions cannot be reached, they're not open, because the bus from and to Vranje has not been running since last night," Cvetkovic said.

According to the latest information, at about 11 o'clock, a bulldozer headed towards Poljanica from Vranje to clear the main road.

Cvetkovic added that on Thursday, the health station in Vlase village was not open.

"Doctors could not come from Vranje, so the patients have not been examined. I spent an hour breaking through from my house to the station, and it's only 200 meters. Most villagers are elderly people, usually living alone, I don't even dare to think how they must be doing now. The roads leading to them are never cleared and they can only be reached on foot, while the snowdrifts are over a meter and a half in places. The bulldozer that arrived from Vranje will, at best, be here by this evening. We pray to God that telephones might start working so that we can at least call if someone is in danger," says Novica Cvetkovic.

Sela kod Vranja

Photo: Private archive

The Poljanica area is located about 30 kilometers north of Vranje, partly along the administrative line with Kosovo and Metohija. Poljanica covers sparsely populated villages with mostly elderly households.

In the winter of 2017, which is on record for heavy precipitation, firefighters and rescuers repeatedly worked in Poljanica, rescuing mostly old people, while some locals froze to death.

Sela kod Vranja

Photo: Private archive

Because of this, the locals here fear that the winters of 2017 and 2012 might repeat, when they had been cut off for days because of snow.

The session of the city emergency situations HQ discussed the current situation on the ground due to snowfall and strong wind.

It has been decided that public companies tasked with this should continue clearing the roads.

Sela kod Vranja

Photo: Private archive

It has also been ordered that the commissioners for civil protection, their deputies and the secretaries of local communities must monitor the situation on the ground and submit accurate and verified information on potentially endangered population, the state of roads in the territories of their local communities, and report about it to the Operational Center of the Emergency Department in Vranje, whose phone number is 017/1985.

All available machinery is in the field and work is being donw to clear the roads in accordance with priorities.

Video: Rescuers fall into snowdrifts: The action to rescue snowed in people in Pester

(S.T.)

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