Montenegro almost cut off by heavy snow

Montenegro almost cut off by heavy snow
People walk in the snow-covered street in downtown Cetinje, Montenegro, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) - The heaviest snowfall in Montenegro in 63 years has sealed off hundreds of villages, shutting down roads and railways and closing the main airport in the tiny Balkan state on Saturday.

The government has said it is considering introducing a state of emergency throughout the country.

The snow virtually sealed off the capital Podgorica, closing its airport and hampering rail and road traffic. At 52 centimeters (20 inches) high, it was the worst fall in the capital since 1949.

The state rail company said an avalanche had blocked a train's route near the mountain town of Kolasin and another engine had to rescue the 50 passengers.

The cold snap in Europe, which began in late January, has killed hundreds of people - most of them homeless. Traffic on the frozen Danube - one of Europe's key waterways - has been unable to move for the longest time in recent memory.

In neighboring Kosovo, an avalanche hit several houses in the village of Restelica Saturday, killing at least three people, Serbia's state Tanjug news agency said.

In Serbia Saturday, overnight snowfall hampered operations to reach some 20,000 households in remote villages which have been cut off since the blizzards started over two weeks ago. The country is also suffering electricity shortages, with authorities ordering a public holiday Friday to preserve energy.

Schools and universities will be closed to save electricity for the whole of next week.

High winds and blizzards closed many roads and highways on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia on Saturday, with unprecedented snow blanketing some of its islands and tourist resorts. Some 3,000 households in western Croatia were without electricity Saturday because of power cuts due to bad weather.

Below-freezing temperatures also persisted across Germany. In Hamburg, tens of thousands of people crowded onto the frozen Aussenalster lake in the city center.

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 some 100,000 tons of products to rot. Dairy farmers also warned that unless roads linking them to markets are cleared soon, milk will spoil.

Snow also continued to fall in the country's north-central regions, accentuating problems in towns in the Apennine mountains and near the Adriatic still struggling with several snowfalls in two weeks. 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.

Snow also hit southern Italy. In the town of Castelvenere, a funeral had to be canceled when snow blocked the arrival of a coffin to church.