By Anush Dashtents
Emergency workers in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province were grappling on Tuesday with continuing blizzards that blocked at the weekend a 12-kilometer section of a major highway leading to the Iranian boarder.
Some 40 heavy trucks and cars carrying more than 160 people were left stranded on a mountain pass between the local towns of Goris and Sisian on Sunday. All passengers, among them Iranian citizens, were reportedly evacuated to Goris by a local rescue squad of the Armenian government’s Emergencies Department several hours later. Officials in Goris said none of them needed hospitalization.
Most of the vehicles were still stuck in deep snowdrifts as of Tuesday afternoon, officials told RFE/RL. According to a senior department official, Sergei Mkhitarian, bulldozers and snowplows were hard at work, trying to reopen it for traffic. He said the effort was complicated by a continuing heavy snowfall accompanied by high winds.
Similar problems were reported in other parts of Armenia which is facing its coldest winter in years. Freezing temperatures across the mountainous country have fallen further in recent days.
“Although most major highways are now open, the overall situation remains very difficult,” Mkhitarian said.
Many roads in Yerevan and outside it remain covered by ice and are dangerous for driving. The city authorities have been widely accused of doing little to remedy the situation. They blame their perceived inaction on a lack of appropriate equipment and funds.
The Armenian police, meanwhile, said there have been no road accidents this week caused by the harsh weather conditions.