14 February 2013

Algeria: Regions Paralysed By Snow

Algiers — Heavy snowfall and bad weather paralysed the eastern and northern regions of Algeria, cutting off several towns and villages.

Life in 22 of Algeria's 48 wilayas has all but come to a full stop. An onslaught of stormy weather over the past week cut off entire villages, making it difficult for people to get around. Heavy snowfall closed a number of roads to traffic, causing added stress for the public.

Seven national roads were completely cut off in the eastern regions in the last 24 hours, Liberte reported on Thursday (February 14th). These roads include RN77 between Batna and Setif, RN9 between Setif and Bejaia, RN106 between Bejaia and Bordj Bou-Arreridj, RN81 and 26 between Guelma-Souk Ahras, and RN75.

With snow in areas above 600 metres and incessant rain accompanied by violent winds, this spell of stormy weather has held the region in its grip for four days now, and temperatures have dropped quite noticeably.

Such weather can only result in problems for the public, particularly those living at higher altitudes.

The public roads division (DTP) said that the road closures posed the greatest challenge. Indeed, once the snow has stopped falling, driving becomes more difficult than ever because of black ice.

The DTP said it hoped that the situation would only be "temporary". The company NAFTAL issued a report stating that the problem essentially lies in the state of the roads leading to these regions, well-known for their severe cold weather which can last into June.

Over the past three days, civil protection officers were called out over 6,000 times. Several similar call-outs were reported over the same period between February 7th and 10th in various areas. The emergency teams responded to calls due to heavy snowfall, rain, road accidents, accidents in the home, getting people to medical treatment, putting out fires, and safety work.

The response from local officials varied from place to place.

In some regions, where town hall resources are insufficient to deal with the challenge, the army helped clear some major routes. In other regions, local elected officials sought out the help of tractors and pick-up truck owners to assist with getting people to hospitals or supplying the public with basic essentials.

Because of the bad weather, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal cancelled a planned visit to Constantine at the last minute. Additionally, many domestic flights were cancelled in these parts.

But it is at the human level that the storms had the greatest impact. Supplying mountain villages with food, and more particularly butane gas, is virtually impossible.

In some villages, people have mobilised to help the most needy amongst them, knowing that food and butane gas transporters will not want to venture out under such conditions.

In the meantime, crisis centres have swung into action in the wilayas affected by the storms. But already people are starting to consider the need to provide these regions affected by harsh winters with the resources they need to deal with such situations in the future.

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