SOFIA/BUCHAREST Snowstorms paralyzed traffic and cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of people in Bulgaria on Friday while forcing atomic energy producer Nuclearelectrica in neighboring Romania to shut down its No. 1 reactor.
Blizzards caused power blackouts in more than 770 Bulgarian towns, authorities said. It also closed parts of the Trakiya motorway in southeastern Bulgaria, all roads in a swathe of the northeast and the main A-2 motorway linking the Romanian capital Bucharest with the Black Sea port of Constanta.
State-owned Nuclearelectrica said it had disconnected its No. 1, 706-megawatt reactor on the Danube river from the national grid because of heavy snow that interfered with a power evacuation line. Nuclearelectrica's two reactors supply about a fifth of Romania’s electricity.
The fierce winter weather also forced the closure of Varna airport on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast for at least eight hours, delayed dozens of flights at Bucharest international airport.
Temperatures were forecast to plunge to minus 25 degrees Celsius in central Romania and minus 20 in Bulgaria. Authorities warned people not to undertake non-urgent travel as snow up to 60 cm deep covered parts of both countries.
Snowploughs were out on Bulgarian roads but were struggling to cope in the face of persistent snowstorms and strong winds, local officials said.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas in Bucharest and Angel Krasimirov in Sofia; editing by Mark Heinrich)