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Dozens rescued in northern Serbia from snowdrifts created by strong wind

Strong winds forming snowdrifts have blocked roads and disrupted energy supplies in northern Serbia, as soldiers and special police deployed Friday to help evacuate dozens of people stranded in cars and buses stuck along blocked roads.

A military helicopter rescued 84 people from their cars on a road about 50 kilometres (30 miles) northeast of Belgrade where piles of snow stopped traffic late Thursday, emergency officials said.

The army even used a tank to clear one of the roads near the border with Hungary, the defence ministry said. Emergency measures were declared in several areas.

Some of the people had spent the day in two buses parked on the road as rescuers tried to reach them with bulldozers and heavy machinery. Authorities advised the citizens not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

"We expect even worse weather conditions overnight," emergency official Predrag Maric said.

Authorities said a number of roads throughout northern Serbia were also frequently blocked Friday, with cars lining up in columns for several kilometres. The government banned truck traffic in the north and stopped any heavy trucks coming in from Hungary or Romania.

A local power company in northern Serbia reported dozens of supply cuts, saying strong winds prevented immediate repairs.

In the capital, Belgrade, a raft on the river Sava disconnected early Friday and drifted downstream before hitting another raft, injuring no one. City authorities urged the citizens to check and secure anything that could be blown off by the wind from the terraces and balconies.

Winter so far in Serbia had been exceptionally mild, but Balkan countries are used to harsh wintry weather conditions.

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