Bulgaria's Interior Ministry has urged all drivers to use the Ilinden-Exochi crossing when traveling to and from Greece after the rising Struma River damaged the E-79, the main road connecting the two countries.
The torrential rains in Southwest Bulgaria over the weekend led the Struma River to rise by five meters in the Kresna Gorge, some 120 km south of Sofia, causing a landslide that undermined the road, which collapsed into the river; a truck with its driver bringing gravel for the repairs has vanished into the raging waters.
The rescue units have still been unable to start the search for the driver since the depth of the river is 8-10 meters, and it is flowing much faster than usual.
According to Valeri Smilenov, Governor of the southwestern District of Blagoevgrad, the repair works will require bringing in 30 000 cubic meters of land mass to reinforce the bank of the river and the road, which means that the road connecting Sofia with Kulata-Promachonas on the Greek border and the Greek port of Thessaloniki will remain closed for 10 or even 12 days.
The Bulgarian police have redirected all traffic to the only close alternative route – through the Predela Pass and the Bansko winter resort and the town of Gotse Delchev to the Ilinden-Exochi crossing into Greece, which means going all the away around the entire Pirin Mountain.
Another option to turn right from Gotse Delchev via the village of Katuntsi, and to still enter Greece through the Kulata-Promachonas crossing. However, the road from Gotse Delchev to Kulata is under repairs, and is generally advisable to be avoided at the present time, and the traffic police have placed numerous patrols to make sure there are no incidents.
The Bulgarian Border Police have asked their Greek colleagues from the town of Serres to redirect all traffic on their side of the border from Kulata-Promachonas to Ilinden-Exochi.
The Border Police announced that there is little traffic at Kulata-Promachonas, and an increased amount of traffic at Ilinden Exochi but that there are no traffic jams or long lines.
Speaking on Monday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov explained that the issues with the floods caused by the Struma River will be resolved through the construction of the Struma Highway, which will run roughly along the route of the E-79 route, and will provide a fast transport connection between Sofia and Thessaloniki.