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Urban Hazards: Yerevan residents still maneuvering on slippery sidewalks under precarious roof ice

yerevan-snow-ice-streetsArmeniaNow  --  With the spring thaw already in the offing, people in Yerevan still have to use a lot of skill to balance themselves on dangerously icy sidewalks and streets in the morning and evening hours.

Even warmer afternoons make their walk no easier as they also have to mind the icicles precariously hanging from the roofs of buildings.

Snowy February with freezing temperatures has turned most of the city into a big block of ice causing a lot of trouble to commuters.

A rise in the number of injuries and near injuries resulting from bad falls has been reported for the period from February 1 (immediately after the first heavy snowfall in Yerevan) to February 21.

According to the Ambulance Service, 116 calls were received from citizens during that period; 57 people were hospitalized with injuries. (During the whole month of January the Service received 50 related calls, with 33 people hospitalized with traumas).

One lawmaker did not escape an injury either.

Stepan Safaryan, a 38-year-old member of the National Assembly, slipped on black ice in Yerevan’s central Moskovyan Street a few days ago and his fall resulted in a broken wrist. “Now my wrist is in plaster and the fracture will take at least 21 days to heal,” says Safaryan. “Unfortunately, I also know other people who have received serious injuries by falling on black ice in the streets.”

Authorities in Yerevan acknowledge the need to get the sidewalk cleanup done quickly to minimize the risk of people falling and receiving injuries. But the work on ice removal so far appears to be mostly uncoordinated; the bulk of it is done by the owners of businesses (though, as part of “civic pride” with the municipality).

Head of the Rescue Department at Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations Mushegh Ghazaryan says they are now also cleaning the roofs from ice in central Yerevan. Otherwise, he says, sidewalks pose a double hazard for walking.

“In some cases we have 1.5-meter-long icicles hanging from roofs, which also makes walking in the sidewalks dangerous. That’s why the municipality’s utilities department together with condominiums is monitoring the situation and every day reports on the most dangerous places in Yerevan for the roofs to be cleaned,” says Ghazaryan.

Two crane vehicles of the Ministry now work on roof icicle removal in central Yerevan. So far the roofs of buildings in several streets in central Yerevan, including Mashtots Avenue, Abovyan, Moskovyan, Tumanyan, Parpetsi streets, have been cleaned.

No snow and mostly sunny weather are forecast for Yerevan for the next four days, with temperatures around -2C, -4C (28F-25F) during the day and -12C, -14C (10F-7F) at night. Authorities pledge that the roof cleaning work will continue along with the further rise in air temperature.

“We need to concentrate our efforts on roof cleaning, otherwise when the thaw begins it will be more difficult to prevent the risk of [falling ice],” says Deputy Mayor Kamo Areyan.

During a February 20 meeting at the City Hall officials reported some difficulties in snow removal caused by vehicles parked in the streets and especially those that are abandoned by their owners until spring.

The city authorities say they are also working on a plan to clean the water drainage system to avoid flooding during the period of spring thaw.

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