Romanian PM visits city at heart of storm that left 8 dead

Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose traveled Monday to a western city that bore the brunt of a violent weekend storm that left eight people dead and about 140 injured.

Tudose's trip to Timisoara came amid criticism that Romanian authorities failed to warn residents to prepare for potentially dangerous weather. Most of those who died were hit by falling trees or flying objects.

Timisoara Mayor Nicolae Robu said he learned about the storm shortly before it tore through his city Sunday with winds gusting up to 100 kph (60 mph), tearing off roofs and uprooting trees.

"I didn't have warning that there would be a violent storm. Rain was forecast," the mayor said. Five of the people killed and 49 of the injured were from the Timisoara area.

Tudose drew criticism with his response on Sunday — "What can we do? Have a law that stops the wind blowing?" — on Monday announced that a rapid warning system would be put in place.

The prime minister met with local officials at the Inspectorate for Emergency Situations. He praised emergency officials for rescue efforts but called the performance of Italian electricity company Enel, which serves most of Romania, "awful."

Some 500,000 customers were without electricity during the storm and half of those remained without power by midday Monday, according to Romania's Energy Ministry said.

President Klaus Iohannis' office issued a statement Monday slamming the government, saying the "growing frequency and intensity of weather phenomena leaves no room for dysfunctional communication between state institutes."

More than 200 towns and villages were affected by the storm, which overturned vehicles and downed power lines. Some 40 schools were closed Monday because of damage to their buildings.