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Three dead as first heavy snowfall and blizzards of winter hit eastern Europe

At least three people died as heavy snowfall and strong blizzards lashed eastern European countries over the weekend, forcing the closure of national roads.

Hundreds of towns and villages were left without electricity on Sunday as the first major cold snap of the season spread across Romania and Moldova, prompting an emergency declaration in Bulgaria.

A 40-year-old man in Moldova died on Sunday after the vehicle he was in skidded off the road and crashed into a tree, authorities said. Six road accidents related to the weather were reported by about midday.

"We repeatedly appeal to drivers not to hit the road with unequipped cars and to drive at low speed," the Moldovan police said in a statement on Telegram. It warned against driving "without an urgent need".

Temperatures in Moldova are expected to touch -9C on Monday, which could lead to more power outages and flight cancellations.

In Romania, red weather warnings were issued in the eastern counties of Constanta, Tulcea, Galati, and Braila where winds were forecast to reach as high as 100kph.

Sebastian Burduja, the Romanian minister of energy, said more than 400 localities had suffered electrical outages due to the heavy snowfall.

Emergency authorities said that both national and local roads in the four counties were closed on Sunday. Officials in the counties of Constanta and Braila reported that at least 69 localities had been left without electricity but that teams had been deployed to fix the outages.

Videos and photos shared by Romanian emergency officials show firefighters battling extreme weather conditions to clear trees from snow-covered roads.

"For more than 3 hours, rescuers from Tulcea have been working in extreme weather conditions, removing fallen trees and offering support to people caught in the strong blizzard," the emergency services said in a post on Facebook.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, winter storms also brought heavy snowfall and prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in large parts of the country.

More than 1,000 settlements, mostly in Bulgaria's northeast, were left without electricity, said prime minister Nikolay Denkov.

Two people in Bulgaria had died in traffic accidents and 36 were left injured during the stormy weather in the last 24 hours. Strong winds also closed roads, caused traffic accidents and travel delays, and downed trees and power lines, Mr Denkov said.

A yellow warning for extremely low temperature has been issued for the capital Sofia on Monday, which could see temperature drop between -7 and -11C.

The Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center had also issued yellow and orange weather warnings for much of the country on Sunday.