Snow traps drivers for days in immense Russian traffic jam

Reuters, MOSCOW

Tue, Dec 04, 2012 - Page 7

Thousands of trucks and cars have been stuck on a major highway, some for more than two days, in a traffic jam dozens of kilometers long caused by heavy snow northwest of Moscow, Russian media reported on Sunday.

Police in the Tver region said field kitchens were operating on the road, but many drivers complained supplies never reached them and they were running out of gasoline to keep their engines running and heating on in subzero temperatures.

“Drivers help one another and that’s it, the problems are on the side of the authorities, there are no gasoline tankers, no water, nothing, we are just stuck here,” a truck driver who identified himself as Sergei told Rossiya 24 TV channel.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dispatched Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov to Tver on Sunday for a meeting on the situation.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was ordered to report to Medvedev yesterday on measures to end the traffic jam and help stranded motorists, Medvedev’s spokesperson said.

Reports put the length of the traffic jam at between 40km and 200km at different times on Sunday.

One man told the state broadcaster he had advanced 1km over the previous 24 hours.

“The reach of the traffic jam at present is no longer than 55km and is gradually falling,” Interfax news agency quoted a police official as saying on Sunday evening.

Russian authorities have been accused of sluggish responses to weather-related problems, including deadly wildfires in 2010 and flooding in the south this summer.

Officials are jumpy about their jobs after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dismissal of the regional development minister in October and Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov last month.

The M-10 highway links Moscow with Russia’s second-largest city, Saint Petersburg, about 700km northwest of the capital, and stretches on to the border with Finland.

Russia’s roads have been the butt of criticism since Tsarist times and its infrastructure has been plagued with problems since the Soviet era, when defense spending was high at the expense of roads, housing, healthcare and other civilian needs.