21 Feb 2012

Breaking ice crushes boats in sudden Serbia thaw

3:02 pm on 21 February 2012

Vast blocks of ice floating on the Danube after a sudden thaw have crushed and sank dozens of boats, pontoons and floating restaurants in Belgrade.

Debris was scattered among the breaking ice for more than a mile along the river and several floating restaurants, barges and boats were torn from their moorings and beached on riverbank as fast moving ice snapped anchor lines.

Temperatures in Serbia rose from -20°C last week to 10°C on Sunday, melting packed ice more than 30 cms thick after weeks of freezing weather that has affected most of Europe.

Serbian authorities had used icebreakers on the Danube, Sava and Tisa rivers, but the ice built up too quickly and port authorities halted traffic on all waterways on 8 February.

At least 20 people have died from cold in Serbia in the last few weeks.

On Monday the government was considering lifting a two-week state of emergency introduced as an energy-saving measure and to allow rescuers to open roads and bring supplies to as many as 70,000 people stranded by snow and ice in rural areas.

Economists say damage from the cold snap may cost Serbia as much as €500 million.

In southern Germany, ice is still blocking the Danube to inland waterways shipping along with a series of other smaller canals and rivers.