PODGORICA, Montenegro – An avalanche hit a village in Kosovo’s mountainous south Saturday, killing a married couple and their 17-year-old son and leaving nine others missing, police said, as heavy snow continued to blanket the Balkans.
The village of Restelica, where the deaths occurred, and its region bordering Macedonia and Albania have been blocked by snow for several days, Kosovo police spokesman Baki Kelani said.
NATO peacekeepers have been called in to help local authorities in the rescue operation.
In neighboring Montenegro, authorities proclaimed a state of emergency after the heaviest snow there in 63 years sealed off hundreds of villages, shut down roads and railways and closed the main airport in the tiny Balkan state on Saturday.
Snow virtually sealed off the capital Podgorica, closing its airport and hampering rail and road traffic. At 20 inches high, it was the biggest snowfall in the capital since 1949.
The cold snap in Europe, which began in late January, has killed hundreds of people – most of them homeless. Boat traffic on the frozen Danube River – one of Europe’s key waterways – has been unable to move for the longest time in recent memory.
In Serbia, overnight snowfall hampered operations to reach about 20,000 households in remote villages, which have been cut off since the blizzards started more than two weeks ago.
In Italy, farm lobbies said that weeks of freezing cold and a string of snowstorms have prevented fruit, vegetables and meat from reaching market, leaving around 100,000 tons to rot. Dairy farmers also warned that unless roads linking them to markets are cleared soon, milk will spoil.
The capital, Rome, dug its way out of its second snowfall in a week. Before this winter, its last significant snowstorm was in 1986. Several Italian airports had delays or cancellations.