A cold snap across Europe has claimed at least 60 lives, authorities said on Friday, as snow disrupted transport in Britain and serious flooding forced thousands of people to be evacuated in the Balkans.
Seventeen people died from the cold in central Europe in the past 24 hours, bringing the total this week to 45. A further 11 died in Russia, plus three in France and one in Germany, local authorities said.
At least 30 people, mainly homeless men, have died in Poland in the past week, and temperatures dropped to minus-15oC overnight.
Temperatures fell to minus-20oC in Braemar, Scotland, while Britain struggled to get back to its feet after days of transport chaos caused by bad weather.
London’s Gatwick airport reopened on Friday after a two-day shutdown due to snow, but other airports — including London Heathrow and Glasgow — warned of more cancelations and delays.
Many trains were canceled due to snow and travel by road was slow going, while about 2,000 schools remained closed.
Despite Gatwick finally clearing the runways, freezing fog meant flights would be limited and “delays and cancelations inevitable,” Europe’s eighth-busiest passenger airport said.
“It is likely to take a few days before flight schedules return to normal,” it said.
Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, warned of delays through the weekend.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said there were “no major concerns” over supplies of food and fuel despite the continued freezing conditions, even though there were warnings of shortages in some newspapers.
Police in Newcastle in the northeast of England reminded locals to wear a coat when they hit the pubs this weekend. “Geordies” are famed for their indifference to cold weather.
In Germany a man in his 60s was found dead in the snow outside a savings bank in Leipzig. Authorities ordered all drivers to equip their vehicles with winter tires or face a penalty of up to 80 euros (US$105).
Temperatures in Moscow hit a low of minus-24oC, the lowest for the season in decades, authorities said, adding that in the remote Evenk region in Siberia, temperatures were a crisp minus-51oC.
Meanwhile, in the western Balkans, flooding caused by rivers swollen through heavy rainfall forced thousands of people from their homes in Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro on Friday, officials said.
More than 7,000 people were moved to safer areas in Albania, where Prime Minister Sali Berisha said the situation was “very serious.”
Thousands of houses were damaged and roads linking the capital Tirana to the north of the country were completely blocked, local authorities reported.
In Bosnia authorities declared a state of emergency after about 1,000 homes were flooded around the town of Bijeljina along the Drina river, the natural border between Bosnia and Serbia. In Serbia, at least 1,400 people were evacuated from the town of Loznica.
In Montenegro about 1,300 people were evacuated due to the “unprecedented” floods that hit the country, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.
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