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Heat Kills 16 In Romania; Hundreds Require Medical Assistance

July 9, 1996

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Romania felt more like the tropics than the Balkans this week, smothered by a five-day heat wave that killed 16 people and sent hundreds into hospitals with heat stroke.

Temperatures climbed as high as 104 in the southern Romanian port of Giurgiu on Monday _ the hottest day in 11 years, according to the National Institute for Meteorology.

``You don’t know how nasty it gets to drive a cab without air conditioning in such weather for 10 hours a day,″ said taxi driver Nicu Dragotan. ``It’s like spending an entire day in a sauna.″

Southeastern Romania, the country’s breadbasket, is already in the midst of a severe drought that threatens corn and wheat harvests.

In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, 102-degree temperatures Monday led to the deaths of five men. Dr. Vladimir Belis, the head of Bucharest’s Forensic Institute, said they were among 16 heat-related deaths over the past five days.

Belis said four suicides could also be linked to the hot weather.

Newspapers and television stations reported hundreds of cases of people needing medical assistance for heat-related ailments over the weekend. In Bucharest, dozens suffering from heat stroke were taken to hospitals for treatment, media reported Tuesday.

Maria Baluta, 73, held a giant green umbrella Tuesday to protect her from the burning sun, saying her pension of $50 was too low to afford a fan.

``In the winter there’s not enough heating in our apartments and now it gets far too hot, and sometimes we even don’t have enough water,″ she sighed.

Temperatures dipped to 95 in the capital on Tuesday. Normal high temperatures in Romania average between 77 and 88 in July.

Elsewhere in the Balkans, Bulgaria was facing its worst drought in 30 years. Temperatures reached a record 106 Monday in Pleven, 190 miles northeast of the capital, Sofia.

Scores of people suffering from the heat were taken to hospitals in Greece after temperatures hit 106. The government banned private cars and half of Athens’ 14,000 taxis from downtown Thursday, Friday and Monday to reduce air pollution.

In Belgrade, Serbia, temperatures soared to 104 Monday, then dipped to 61 overnight.

Dry, hot winds carrying sparks started fires Monday in southern Romania. In Skopje, Macedonia, the heat sparked 18 major fires in the past four days, including one Tuesday in the central part of town.

Update hourly