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Split's Mayor Defiant As Siberian Conditions Start To Bite

People walk along a snow covered street in the Adriatic port city of Split.
People walk along a snow covered street in the Adriatic port city of Split.
Known primarily as a sun-drenched tourist hub famous for its seafront promenade and cafes, the port of Split on Croatia's Adriatic coast has just experienced its coldest and snowiest week on record, which almost paralyzed the city and put some 600 inhabitants in hospital with broken bones after they slipped on the town's icebound streets.

Although snow falls in Split every couple of decades, it usually melts right away.

It's no surprise, therefore, that the city's denizens' initial joy at seeing 25 centimeters of snow quickly evaporated as they found themselves struggling to cope with serious transport and supply problems.

One child in urgent need of medical treatment even died when emergency services were unable to make it to her house in time because of the poor weather conditions.

The chaotic situation has had people clamoring for Mayor Zeljko Kerum and the city administration to do more.

However, Kerum himself does not seem to share their sense of urgency

"This much snow is God's will, there's nothing I can do about it," said the populist entrepreneur-cum-politician, who was a surprise winner in Split's 2009 mayoral election.

Kerum's attitude will not have surprised many as the super-rich food-retail magnate has earned a reputation for being blunt and somewhat gaffe-prone.

His subsequent comment that Split's citizens are ill-equipped for snow and ice because they are paying too many taxes will have done nothing to dispel this impression.

Sisterly Solidarity

Now, amid increasingly loud calls for Kerum's resignation and the likely prospect of citizens filing lawsuits against him and the city administration, his sister Nevenka Becic, who chairs the town council, has risen to Kerum's defense, claiming that Split's residents only have themselves to blame for the problems they are experiencing with the weather.

"All those who were going out, and did not really have the need, are themselves responsible," she said.

"As regards older citizens, they should all have children, and children are by law responsible for taking care of their parents.

"If they don't have children, than they could have nephews or nieces and should have a good relationship with them

"If they don't have nephews and nieces, then they have neighbors with whom they should have good relations."

-- Nedim Dervisbegovic

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