Europe freezes over: deaths, traffic disrupted from deep freeze
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Heavy snow and frigid temperatures have gripped large parts of Europe, leading to dozens of deaths, freezing rivers, the grounding of planes and traffic accidents:
The government says that 10 people died Sunday of cold as the country has been gripped by low temperatures. The deaths bring to 65 the number of fatalities since Nov. 1 when temperatures, especially at night, started falling to freezing levels.
The spokeswoman for the Government Center for Security, Anna Adamkiewicz, said Monday that the deaths occurred across the country, outdoors or in unheated summer cottages or abandoned houses. The victims were nine men, aged between 32 and 69, and one woman, aged 52.
In Moscow, two people have died and 190 people with hypothermia have sought medical help in the Russian capital between New Year’s Eve and Jan. 8, the last day of the holiday period in Russia, according to Russian news agencies quoting emergency medical official Sergei Gumenyuk.
The Russian Meteorological Service said the Orthodox Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 was the coldest in Moscow since 1987 when temperatures plunged below -31 C (-24 F). Moscow schools, however, opened on Monday after the holiday recess. In Russia’s Urals, schools remained closed in the Tyumen, Khanty-Mansiysky, Sverdlovsk and Yamalo-Nenets regions where temperatures of -35 C (-31 F) were recorded.
The emergency situations ministry reported five people dead over the past nine days.
THE CZECH REPUBLIC
According to Czech public radio on Monday, six people are believed to have died of exposure during the latest cold snap, including in the capital, Prague. Meteorologists forecast freezing temperatures to continue in the coming days.
Serbian authorities have declared emergency measures in 10 municipalities in central and southern parts of the country as fresh snow and extremely low temperatures have blocked roads and cut off villages. Despite-28 C (-18 F), residents in remote villages on the rough Golija mountain have refused offers from authorities to evacuate their homes during the deep freeze because they won’t abandon their animals.
The mostly elderly villagers said they’d rather freeze than abandon their sheep, goats, cows and chickens.
“We have wood and food for the animals,” says Dragomir, one elderly resident. “We’ll wait.”
Freezing temperatures and strong winds have created havoc along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, which isn’t used to such cold winters.
Even the sea froze in shallow bays, trapping fishermen’s boats to the amazement of locals who haven’t seen anything like this in decades. The temperatures in Croatia’s tourist centers of Dubrovnik and Split dropped to -7 C (19 F) and strong winds blew off ancient pine and olive trees on the coast.
Ferries and planes were grounded, and traffic over bridges banned. Water pipes, which are dug just below the surface as is the case in warm climates, have frozen, leaving thousands without running water as authorities tried to figure out ways to cope.
Police in the southern Swiss region of Valais say a Russian couple were killed and their two children aged 11 and 15 were gravely injured over the weekend after the vehicle they were travelling in tumbled about 225 meters (740 feet) along a snow-covered Alpine road.
Officials said the driver had been trying to park on the roadside, and snowy conditions appeared to have led to the deadly plunge into a pile of rocks. The two children were taken to a local hospital before being flown by helicopter to another in the capital, Bern. They were expected to survive, officials said.
Turkish Airlines on Monday canceled 277 domestic and international flights to and from Istanbul’s two airports due to heavy snow. Schools around Istanbul were declared closed on Monday and the Istanbul governor’s office said civil servants in the city would be able to go home at 3:30 p.m. local time.
Swathes of Greece have been covered by snow, including several islands, some of which have seen more than a meter (more than three feet) of snow.
Temperatures in some parts of northern Greece have plunged to as low as -18 C (0 F). A state of emergency was declared in the municipality of Kymi on the island of Evia, Greece’s second largest island after Crete, where the snow in some areas reached two meters (6.5 feet), leading to cuts to electricity and water supplies.
The small eastern Aegean island of Oinousses reported severe problems from the heavy snowfall, with the local mayor telling Greek media the island had been without landline telephone connections for four days. On the island of Lesbos, drivers needed snow chains to drive just outside the main port town of Mytilene, while heavy snowfall also hit Chios and parts of the southern island of Crete, from where some flights to Athens were cancelled.
Chios and Lesbos are home to thousands of refugees, many living in precarious conditions in severely overcrowded camps. Many are still living in tents despite the severe weather. Rights groups have slammed the conditions and called on the Greek government to act quickly to reduce overcrowding.
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