KIEV, March 25 – Ukraine survived the worst snowstorm to hit the country in more than 100 years without loss of life and with transportation infrastructure now gradually returning back to normal, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Monday.
“Thank God that no one died, no one froze. In conditions as extreme as these ones we’re simply lucky,” Azarov said.
Kiev, the country’s largest city, was the worst affected by the snowstorm, which had paralyzed the city infrastructure, forcing the authorities to declare a state of emergency.
“Today we can say that the cyclone has left the territory of Ukraine and no more precipitation is expected,” Oleksandr Vilkul, a deputy prime minister, said.
With snow removing machinery and even armored personnel vehicles deployed in Kiev for the past 48 hours, officials said that most of public transportation routes will be reopened on Tuesday.
“I want to thank everybody for his or her work to provide livelihoods of Kiev,” Azarov said. “But overall I estimate the work has been done at the C-grade level.”
President Viktor Yanukovych in a decree signed on Saturday allowed local authorities to deploy army units and heavy machinery to help clearing the streets and highways from snow and rescue people stuck on the road.
In Kiev thousands of drivers were trapped in their cars overnight and had to walk home braving a blizzard at the weekend.
Some people have taken to skiing along streets blanketed in snow.
There has been some disruption to food supplies, with some people complaining about bread shortages in supermarkets.
The authorities say the normal monthly level of snow fell in just 24 hours, while the blizzard conditions caused power cuts in about 600 towns and villages across Ukraine at the weekend.
Hundreds of soldiers have been helping Kiev's citizens to dig out cars buried in snow and the city is struggling to get public transport moving again.
Meanwhile, reports in media on Monday blamed Oleksandr Popov, the head of the Kiev city administration appointed by Yanukovych, for poor reaction of the authorities in early hours of the snowstorm.
Popov, along with Yanukovych and other officials, on Friday traveled to Poland to see soccer match as Poland was hosting Ukraine, despite weather service warning that the snowstorm is going to hit the city on Friday afternoon.
That explained the city’s poor reaction to the storm, which led to serious traffic jams and complicated further snow removal efforts, the report said.
Oleksandr Mazurchak, the first deputy head of the Kiev administration, on Monday denied the reports, and said that Popov had spent time on Kiev streets Friday night and Saturday morning.
“I don’t know who was watching the soccer. I can show you a phone call that I received at 4:00 am in morning on Saturday,” Mazurchak said. “The head [of the administration] was calling and asking why there is a situation like that.” (tl/ez)