Extreme weather claims 2 lives in Bulgaria and leaves many in the dark

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Gale-force winds and heavy rain and snow hit large parts of Bulgaria on Sunday, claiming the lives of two people, causing severe damage and disrupting power supply in towns and villages, officials said.

Residents in eastern Bulgaria, which was hit the hardest, said they had never before experienced such extreme weather.

A state of emergency was declared in the Black Sea city of Varna, which received torrential rain mixed with snow along with intense wind. Officials said the conditions posed risks to the population.

The mayor’s office reported power disruptions in all boroughs of Varna. Fallen trees and branches blocked key roads, leaving vehicles stranded. The city called on residents to stay home and not to use their cars unless they had urgent needs.

Varna International Airport was open but had delayed and canceled flights, airport officials said.

Police reported that a man died Saturday after his van hit a fallen tree on a major boulevard in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. In Varna, a woman died instantly after being struck by a falling tree branch.

Bulgarian meteorologists issued warnings for dangerous weather for most of the country's east on Sunday, forecasting winds gusting up to 125 kph (78 mph). The heavy rain was expected to turn into snow as temperatures fell.

Across the Black Sea, the severe weather also caused widespread damage and disruption in Turkey, including the splitting of a cargo ship and the evacuation of a prison.

The Maritime General Directorate said the Cameroon-flagged Pallada “broke into two due to heavy weather conditions” after running aground amid 5-meter (15-foot) waves off Eregli, a coastal town 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of Istanbul. All 13 crew members were rescued safely.

The weather hampered efforts to reach another cargo vessel, the Turkish-flagged Kafkametler, as the ship drifted close to a breakwater outside the town’s harbor.

Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said prisoners were moved from Eregli’s prison to surrounding facilities due to rising water levels.

Turkey’s emergency agency, AFAD, earlier issued severe weather warnings for 72 of the country’s 81 provinces. Turkish Airlines canceled 105 scheduled flights from Istanbul’s two airports on Sunday. Snow led to travel disruptions on the Istanbul-Ankara highway.

The private Demiroren news agency reported fallen trees, lamp posts and phone poles in Zonguldak and Sakarya provinces, as well as damage to buildings.

Istanbul Governor Davut Gul said 210 homes and workplaces were flooded in the Black Sea town of Sile. Wind speeds had reached up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), he reported.

On the Marmara Sea, fishing boats moored at Esenkoy were destroyed and heavy rain led to landslides.