Major power outage hits Balkan region as countries swelter in early summer heat wave – Metro US

Major power outage hits Balkan region as countries swelter in early summer heat wave

Bosnia Power Outage
A police officer gestures towards cars as she tries to control traffic during a power outage in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Friday, June 21, 2024.(AP Photo/Armin Durgut)

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — A major hourslong power outage hit much of the Balkans on Friday as the southern European region sweltered in an early heat wave that sent temperatures soaring to more than 40 C (104 F).

Montenegrin authorities said that an outage that lasted for several hours in the country’s power distribution system left almost the entire country without electricity, while similar problems were reported in the coastal part of Croatia, Bosnia and Albania.

Nada Pavicevic, a spokeswoman for Montenegro’s state power distribution company, described the outage as a “disturbance of regional proportion,” and said authorities were still working to determine what happened.

The exact cause for such a widespread outage wasn’t immediately clear. Bosnia’s state power company said that the outage was caused by problems in a regional distribution line, while Albania’s state power company said the “extreme heat” caused the problem.

Montenegro, Croatia and Albania share the Adriatic Sea coastline. Power grids in the region remain connected decades after the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

In the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, the outage also caused traffic jams, with trams stopping and traffic lights not operating. Similar gridlock was reported in the Adriatic Sea port of Split.

In Croatia’s tourist resort of Dubrovnik, thousands of tourists were left stranded in midafternoon, with restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, ice cream shops and other outlets shutting their doors during the outage. Soccer fans milled around some of the pubs with darkened televisions, because they wanted to watch games being played at the European Championship soccer tournament in Germany.

The collapse, which happened just after noon on Friday and lasted for several hours at some places, came as authorities throughout the region warned citizens to be cautious, drink water and avoid sunshine because of extremely high temperatures.

“Don’t stay in the sun between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” warned Serbia’s Public Health Institute in its instructions to citizens. “If you must go out, please take a bottle of water along.”

Meteorologists say the heat in the region this week came from Africa, carrying sand particles that created a cloud-like layer, dimming the skyline.

The sweltering heat was the worst in big cities, where concrete sizzled even in the evening, and where nights offered no real respite as temperatures remained above 20 C (68 F).

While hot summers are normal in the Balkans, temperatures don’t reach such heights in mid-June, prompting weather alerts and warnings.

Earlier this week, authorities in North Macedonia imposed emergency measures through Sunday, after which the heat is expected to relent.

Belgrade resident Milos Jeftovic said he is following the instructions and taking every opportunity to stay near the Serbian capital’s two rivers. Authorities, he said, should have reduced working hours and parked water tankers in the city streets.

“Personally, I don’t have a problem … but this is not OK, temperatures are above acceptable (levels),” Jeftovic said.

Weather warnings were also issued in neighboring Croatia, a tourism hot spot, where the heat wave is set to peak on Friday before an expected change of weather on the weekend that could trigger storms.

Montenegrin state television RTCG said that though the citizens of the country’s capital of Podgorica are used to very high temperatures, some complained they started too early. One man told the broadcaster: “I really don’t know what we are going to do.”

Experts say that extreme weather conditions are also triggered by climate change.