KIEV (Reuters) – A winter storm has struck central and southern Ukraine, killing at least five people in Ukraine and three in neighboring Moldova, while snow and strong winds knocked out power in hundreds of towns and villages and closed highways.
At least 19 people were infected in Ukraine and 10 others in Moldova. Meteorologists said more bad weather was on the way, with snow and rain forecast across Ukraine on Tuesday.
The severe weather hit as tens of thousands of soldiers were on the front lines of the 21-month war with Russia, amid fears that Moscow could attack the power grid with air strikes this winter.
In his evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that five people had died in the southern Odessa region, and indicated that there may be others elsewhere.
Emergency services said power remained out in 882 areas. Traffic stopped on 10 highways and more than 1,500 trucks were stranded.
Schools have been closed in both southern Ukraine and Moldova.
Interior Minister Ihor Klimenko said strong winds left snow up to two meters deep in some places.
Ukrainian authorities shared photos of damaged power grid facilities, fallen trees, and rescuers helping people escape drifts and pulling cars off snow-covered roads.
The authorities said that the regions of central Kiev, southern Odessa and Mykolaiv were most affected by the power outage, with 40,000 homes initially affected in the Kiev region. By 6:30 p.m., more than 15,000 homes in the area were still without power.
In Moldova, two people were found frozen to death in a car in the east of the country and another outside the capital.
Two border crossings in the Odessa region into Moldova reopened after a temporary suspension on Sunday, but traffic conditions remained difficult, the Ukrainian border service said.
On Sunday, the mayor of the Black Sea port of Odessa urged residents to stay in their homes, and authorities warned that water supplies would be interrupted due to a power outage that stopped pumps from working.
The emergency service said that eight people suffered from hypothermia and five others were injured due to falling trees in the Odessa region.
On Monday evening, the boiler facility in Odessa, where a 100-meter-long pipe broke and fell on Sunday, resumed operations.
“At the moment, heating is provided in a trial mode to 120,000 customers in Odessa. People’s homes should be warm by morning,” Oleh Kiper, the regional governor, said via the Telegram app.
(Reporting by Dan Belichuk, Yulia Dessa and Alexander Tannas in Chisinau – Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Tom Balmforth, Bernadette Baum, William McLean, Tomasz Janowski and Ron Bubiski
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