Heat wave causes giant power outage in Balkans

Heat wave causes giant power outage in Balkans
Heat wave causes giant power outage in Balkans

A heatwave approaching 40°C from Montenegro to Croatia via Bosnia led to a power outage of international magnitude.

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Traffic lights without lights, businesses upside down and air conditioning turned off. While the temperature has risen to around 40°C in the western Balkans, the electricity networks are no longer able to keep up. A large-scale power outage occurred this Friday, June 21, in Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania and most of the Croatian coast.

Nada Pavićević, spokesperson for Montenegro’s national electricity distribution company, described the outage as a “disruption of regional proportion” and said authorities were still working to determine what happened. The exact cause of the outage has not been specified at this time.

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The regional electricity network has been overloaded for several days due to overconsumption and the use of air conditioning at high temperatures. Bosnia’s national electricity company said the outage was due to problems in a regional distribution line, while Albania’s national electricity company said the “extreme heat” was the cause of the problem.

Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Albania share the coastline of the Adriatic Sea and their electricity networks are still interconnected.

“The entire electricity network of continental Europe is connected, which sometimes has advantages, but also disadvantages”explains Danko Blažević, head of Croatian electricity networks. “The advantage is that you can import, export and sell energy, but the downside is that when there is an outage, it is essentially passed from one system to another”he added.

Heat blocks cities

The outage also caused traffic jams in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Trams were immobilized and traffic lights were not working. Similar traffic jams were reported in the Croatian port city of Split.

In the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik, thousands of tourists have been stranded since mid-afternoon as restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, ice cream parlors and other establishments closed during the outage.

TV screens transmitting Euro 2024 matches remained switched off in pubs, leaving football fans disappointed.

The outages, which began just after noon Friday, came as authorities across the region urged citizens to exercise caution, drink water and avoid exposure to the sun due to extremely high temperatures. .

“Do not stay in the sun between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.”warned the Institute of Public Health of Serbia in its instructions to citizens. “If you have to go out, take a bottle of water.”

Meteorologists say the heat that hit the region this week came from Africa, carrying sand particles that created a cloud layer, darkening the horizon.

The stifling heat was strongest in the big cities, where the concrete crackled even in the evening, and where the nights offered no real respite as temperatures remained above 20°C. While hot summers are normal in the Balkans, temperatures do not usually reach such highs in mid-June.

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

On Friday, Romanian authorities imposed weight limits on vehicles traveling on national roads in certain countries in order to prevent the degradation of road surfaces.

Miloš Jeftović, who lives in Belgrade, said he was following instructions and taking every opportunity to stay near the Serbian capital’s two rivers, the Danube and the Sava. Authorities should have reduced working hours and parked fuel trucks on city streets, he added.

“Personally, I don’t have a problem… but it’s not right, the temperatures are above acceptable levels”said Mr. Jeftović.

Weather warnings have also been issued in neighboring tourism hotspot Croatia, where the heatwave is expected to peak on Friday, ahead of an expected weather change over the weekend that could trigger storms.

Montenegrin state television RTCG said that although residents of Podgorica, the country’s capital, were used to very high temperatures, some complained that the heat had started too early in the year. A man told the channel: “I really don’t know what we’re going to do.”.

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Experts say extreme weather is also triggered by climate change.

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