Every school child smiled when given the big news: No school until Monday, January 9th, 2017. The education ministry finally accepted a suggestion by the Health Inspectorate to extend the Christmas vacation for several reasons:
- The flu is spreading, so far in 4 Bulgarian regions. Chances are, it will spread further. The authorities are alarmed, since the annual influenza epidemic is hitting the country a lot earlier than usual. At this stage, Ruse, Stara Zagora and Montana are affected. In Plovdiv, Burgas, Varna and other towns, a closure of all schools had already been ordered before, as a counter measure. In Pazardzhik and Blagovgrad, the declaration of flu epidemics was an option considered by the local authorities.
- A lot of snow is on its way, according to forecasters. Southern Bulgaria is already being covered in snow. The rest of the country is about to follow.
- Bulgaria is expecting freezing temperatures. They will supposedly slump down to -17 degrees in Sofia, comparable levels in eastern Bulgaria, and -24 degrees in the very south.
The severe weather ahead poses dangers for all Bulgarians. The risk for refugees is even greater. The same applies to the homeless.
A 15-year-old 10th-grader from Sofia said, she was happy the vacation was extended. “On the other hand, we might have more exams per day afterwards, since we are losing school days.”
According to reports in conventional Bulgarian media, more than 150 homeless people were accommodated at a crisis center in Sofia last night, when temperatures were still relatively harmless, in comparison to what is coming. The capacity of the crisis center is 170.
In southern Bulgaria, a Somali refugee froze to death on Monday. The lady was part of a group, members of which had to be taken to hospitals with frozen limbs. Within the last 12 months, eleven refugees froze to death in Bulgaria. The falling temperatures increase the danger substantially.
Drivers were urged not to travel in the coming days, due to the severe weather forecast. Also, motorists were asked to install winter tires, even though they are not required by law, and to bring along good car batteries, snow chains, shovels, gloves, reflective vests, tow ropes and more fuel than usually needed, just in case. After the last snow drama, just before New Year’s Eve, during which the Bulgarian Army had stepped in with tanks, in order to save truck drivers, buses along with their drivers and passengers, as well as people in regular vehicles, who got stuck on Trakiya Highway and elsewhere, the authorities do not want a déjà vu.
Judging from the weather predicted, it is safe to say that Bulgaria has not experienced a winter like this one for several years.
By Imanuel Marcus