An emergency system to warn the public about extreme weather phenomena has become a government priority after the storms that swept through Western Romania during the evening of September 17.
Eight people lost their lives and the number of those injured in the Sunday evening storms has risen to 145, the Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (IGSU) said. Damages were reported in 212 localities in 15 counties, namely Alba, Arad, Bihor, Bistriţa-Năsăud, Braşov, Cluj, Caraş-Severin, Hunedoara, Harghita, Iaşi, Maramureş, Mureş, Suceava, Sălaj and Timiş.
At the same time, the road and railway infrastructure in Western and Northern Romania was impacted by the storm. Fifteen passenger train routes were canceled after the storms, and 112 trains circulating in the area of Timişoara, Cluj, Braşov and Iaşi had combined delays of over 243 hours, the Romanian Railways Company (CFR) announced.
Romania’s Prime Minister Mihai Tudose said that work has begun, starting today, September 18, on an emergency population warning system. The warning would first be transmitted at a governmental level, then taken over by mobile telephony operators and distributed towards the areas were extreme weather phenomena are expected to take place.
“What will be a priority starting today is to establish a functional warning system. […] We will have to work with the Emergency Situations Inspectorate and with mobile telephony operators […] so that there is a coordination and we establish a functional mechanism,” the Prime Minister said at Radio Romania Actualitati, quoted by News.ro.
The head of the government said all counties will soon receive the technical support to be able to intervene in such situations.
A task group to work on the mobile telephony warning system was set up on Monday, September 18, according to government sources quoted by Agerpres. The group is set to have its first meeting also on Monday.
In his turn, President Klaus Iohannis has asked the Government to implement urgently an emergency population warning system. The President argued that the Sunday storms showed the inefficiency of the population warning system. He asked the Government to clarify whether the procedures for these cases were followed and to find out whether the weather-related information were transmitted on time and in accordance with their seriousness.
Iohannis argued that it is not acceptable that, in a country recognized for the high number of IT specialists and Internet speed such as Romania, there is no government initiative related to a warning system for all citizens. “Shifting the responsibility between various structures of the state does not save lives and does not help diminish the losses,” the President said. “If there are state authorities or people in public posts who did not act according to their attributions, they are compelled to answer to the law,” he argued.
The most affected areas after the storms were Timis and Arad counties, in Western Romania. The Interior Affairs Minister, Carmen Dan, was in Timisoara on Monday, and Prime Minister Mihai Tudose was also expected to the come to the city on September 18.
(Photo source: CFR Infrastructura Facebook Page)