Long-Term Traffic Disruption Looms along Sofia-Kulata Road
A section of the E-79 road, the international road running from Bulgaria's Sofia to Kulata and Thessaloniki in Greece, may remain impassable for a whole month following a landslide, caused by the rising of the Struma River.
"The situation there is very complicated. Nearly the entire road has collapsed in to the river and I am afraid that traffic will be hampered for a month," the mayor of Kresna municipality Iliyan Krastev said.
In his words the section that collapsed is very narrow, which is the reason why it is impossible to fix it immediately.
"The road will be open for traffic in seven-eight days at the earliest," forecast Bozhidar Yotov, chairman of the Managing Board of Road Infrastructure agency, who visited on Sunday the affected section.
A truck and its driver have disappeared with no trace into the raging Struma River in Southwestern Bulgaria during efforts to reinforce one of the lanes of the E-79 road leading from Sofia to Greece.
The incident occurred early Sunday morning, after at about 1 am one of the two lanes of the E-79 road, the international road running from Bulgaria's Sofia to Kulata and Thessaloniki in Greece, got destroyed by a landslide caused by the rising of the Struma River by up to 5 meters at some spots.
The section affected by the landslide is located in the Kresna Gorge near the Yavorov train station, some 120 km south of Sofia. As a result of the incessant torrential rains in Western Bulgaria over the past two days, the Struma River has seen its level rise tremendously. This caused a landslide off the side of the road, with land mass collapsing into the river together with parts of the lane.
The route of the E-79 road roughtly coincides with the route of the Struma River, which springs from the Vitosha Mountain near Sofia and flows into the Aegean Sea.
As a result of the new landslide, the major road connecting Bulgaria and Greece has now been closed.
The only close alternative route that can be used is a deviation from Simitli on the E-79 to Bansko, Gotse Delchev, Katuntsi and then reaching Kulata, which means going all the away around the entire Pirin Mountain.
Shortly before midnight on Saturday, the Similti Municipality, which is close to spot where the landslide collapsed on the E-79 road, declared an emergency situation. Rescue units including kayaking teams from "Adventure Net" helped save 6 people stranded in their flooded houses.
While the torrential rain in Sofia and most of Southwestern Bulgaria has started to recede, the Struma River and the other smaller rivers and mountain brooks in the region have risen way above their levels, which could potentially cause further problems.