Volunteers on hand to assist stranded motorists after snowstorm

Published: 15 March 2013 17:56 CET

By Gabriela Poller, IFRC

A severe snowstorm by strong winds forced over 10,000 people to spend the night in cars or roadside buildings after being stranded on a major Hungarian highway the M1. Many of the stranded are children and pregnant women.

The Hungarian Red Cross was immediately on the scene, assisting those trapped on the highway with blankets, hot tea and food. The organization is part of the joint-rescue effort by the police, military forces and fire brigade. There are about 8,000 emergency workers out on the roads, however access remains difficult due to snowdrifts and fierce winds. Rescuers are using tanks and bulldozers to clear the roads. In some areas, guardrails have been dismantled to allow vehicles to leave the highway on makeshift roads.

In western Hungary, 57 villages with over 13,000 inhabitants are cut off by heavy snow. Massive drifts have severed 160 roads and disrupted five railway lines. The storm also left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

The Hungarian Red Cross called for additional support from the Austrian Red Cross, which sent 23 ambulances carrying rescue teams made up of medical and psychosocial support personnel to the region of Györ. In addition to distributing warm blankets, hot beverages, food and medication to those in need, the teams will also help to calm the concerns of the stranded motorists. There are 57 Austrian Red Cross volunteers and staff currently assisting in this operation.