The snowfall began early in the morning and continued throughout the day. Some of the city’s main thoroughfares were blocked by traffic jams in the morning and at noon, with municipal authorities struggling to quickly clear all roads of snow and ice. Most of them became passable later in the day.
There was also a major disruption in public transport during the morning rush-hour. “I’ve been waiting here for a long time,” said one woman standing at a bus stop. “There are no buses, no taxis. The taxis driving by are full.”
“Why didn’t they work all night?” another pedestrian complained angrily. “They [municipal authorities] have said on TV that they’ve got this much salt, this much sand, that they’ve got everything. But where is that stuff? Where are the snow-ploughs?”
Armenia -- A snow-plough cleans up a street in central Yerevan, 1Feb2011.
But Gagik Khachatrian, head of public services at the Mayor’s Office, defended the authorities’ response to the emergency. “All the services have been up working since five o’clock in the morning,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, while monitoring traffic on a busy street together with road police officers.
“We have stored enough salt and sand. It’s just that vehicles are interfering with our cleaning work,” said Khachatrian. He blamed traffic jams on cars getting stuck because of worn-out tires.
Major Arsen Arshakian, a senior official at the Yerevan road police, said at least 25 car accidents were registered by his servicemen within several hours. He said they caused only minor injury.
“Fortunately, we have had no serious accidents so far,” Arshakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service early in the afternoon. “We hope to be able to sort out traffic later today.”
In one such accident, a truck slid off the road and stepped on the sidewalk while driving downhill. Nobody was hurt as a result.
According to Norik Sargsian, a senior official at the national road police, the snowfall caused little disruption on highways across Armenia. “We have no closed highway sections,” he said, adding that only two highways became “difficult to pass” in the morning.
On one of those roads, a car carrying three journalists fell into a roadside ravine and turned over. None of them suffered injuries.
One of the journalists, Gagik Shamshian, said they were riding back to Yerevan after failing to a reach the town of Artik on assignment. “The road was completely impassable,” he said. “