YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Unusually strong snowstorms have swept through Armenia in recent days, killing one person, blocking major highways and leaving many cars stranded.
The blizzards aggravated by freezing temperatures began on New Year’s Eve and continued in various parts of the country in the following days. The southeastern Syunik province was hit particularly hard by the calamity.
Police found on Tuesday the dead body of a 48-year-old man near Goris, a town in Syunik. The man, who worked as a guard at a local cattle farm, reportedly went missing on Monday after heading home to get some food.
The continuing heavy snowfall in the area blocked on Tuesday morning traffic through a road connecting Goris to another regional town, Sisian. Dozens of vehicles were left stranded there.
The Armenian traffic police stopped other motorists from driving towards that road, which is part of a highway running southeast from Yerevan to Armenia’s border with Iran, as local authorities and rescue workers scrambled to clear the snow. The highway section was only partly reopened to traffic by Tuesday evening.
Several other roads passing through another mountainous province, Gegharkunik, remained closed. The blizzards have also seriously complicated traffic in other parts of Armenia and even in Yerevan. Many residents of the Armenian capital have angrily criticized municipal authorities for what they see as a slow response to the emergency.
“We haven’t had such a long and intensive snowfall for years,” Hovannes Khangeldian, a senior official at the Armenian Ministry for Local Government and Emergency Situations, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Cleaning works are continuing in all directions, and if there are no further weather surprises all the roads will be reopened in the coming hours,” he said.