Snow Emergency in Western Ukraine

On Sunday, December 16, 2012 hundreds of vehicles were trapped on the roads of western Ukraine due to severe snowstorms. According to various mainstream and citizen media reports, the situation was critical, as many of those stuck inside their cars were running out of food, water and gasoline, while the weather was not getting better.

Boris Pelekh, whose relatives spent hours freezing inside a bus not far from Lviv, has been posting short dispatches on the situation on Facebook. In his first and second [ru] updates, posted in the morning of Sunday, he was urging his readers to share information about the emergency – and more than 3,000 Facebook users did. This photo of a huge snow pile [ru] on the road, sent to Pelekh by his mother, was shared, along with his message, by nearly 1,150 users:

[…] Mama called, there's a snow pile across the road that is as tall as she is… in a car that is still visible… there are parents with kids… its engine has stopped working!!!!!! Snow has blocked the doors!!!! They are no longer able to open the doors by themselves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other cars are in the same situation!!!!! More or less….
People please share this…. Maybe someone will be able to do something!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some ten hours after the first updates, Pelekh wrote [ru] that the bus and other cars nearby were finally dug out of the snow, and his relatives were on the way to the nearest town. Pelekh's mother told him [ru] that the villagers had taken in the children from the cars, to warm them up, while their parents had stayed behind; some ended up suffering frostbite and were eventually taken to a hospital.

According to the most recent updates (e.g., here and here [uk, ru]) posted in the SOS!!! [uk, ru] Facebook event thread, which was set up by the “Common Cause” Civic Movement [uk, ru], the situation on certain segments of the blocked routes appears to be under control and people seem to have been evacuated from their trapped vehicles. Facebook user Oleg Prots, who knows one of the volunteer rescuers currently at work in an affected area, is asking netizens [uk] not to spread panic:

[…] If you know specific people who need help at a specific location – write about it. Because, damn it, half of Facebook is filled with screaming about “cars are snowed in, out of gas, people are freezing,” but there is zero of specific info on where to go to and where help is needed.

On its official YouTube channel, the Ministry of Emergency Situations posted this video from the Kyiv-Chop highway, noting that 200 rescue workers and 40 vehicles were employed in the relief operation:

Yulia Borysko and Roman Vybranovskyy posted this photo of the snow-related traffic jam 7 km away from Ternopil. Borysko wrote:

Human brotherhood and mutual help are the most important things in moments like these.

In a comment, Oksana Forostyna asked [uk] a seemingly obvious question about the authorities’ failure to prevent the emergency:

[…] I cannot understand how, in our times, it was possible not to warn people against [long-distance] driving in such weather? Especially bus drivers.

Ironically, the latest item posted on PM Mykola Azarov‘s Facebook page is a link to a rather optimistic article [ru] that was published on his website on Friday, Dec. 14, and is titled “Ukraine is Ready for Winter”:

A screenshot of PM Mykola Azarov's Facebook page, with a link to his article titled “Ukraine is Ready for Winter” – and one of the user comments: “Is it really ready for winter??? Please do everything to save the people who are trapped in snow!!!!”

User Oleksandr Tsypnyak left this message [uk] for the Prime Minister:

You were recommending that everyone grab shovels and start working. Now everyone is recommending that you yourself grab a shovel and go remove the snow.

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