Temperatures have plunged to new lows in Europe, where a week-long cold snap has now claimed more than 250 lives as forecasters warned that the big freeze would tighten its grip over the weekend.
Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll of 122 deaths, including many people who froze to death in the streets.
People have been found dead on the streets in some countries, while thousands have been trapped in mountain villages in Serbia. In Italy, Venice’s canals started freezing over and even Rome was dusted in snow.
The lowest temperatures recorded in Europe were in the southwest of the Czech Republic, where the mercury dropped as low as minus-38.1oC overnight on Thursday.
The EU executive said on Friday that vital Russian gas deliveries had dropped in nine countries, with Russian giant Gazprom invoking flexibility clauses as it also braves a cold snap. Supplies fell 30 percent in Austria and 24 percent in Italy.
Ukraine’s emergencies ministry raised its death toll to 101 since the cold snap took hold, 64 of whom died on the streets.
Almost 1,600 people have sought medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia and thousands have flocked to temporary shelters.
The chilling temperatures killed eight more people over 24 hours in Poland, bringing the death toll to 37 since the deep freeze began a week ago, police said.
Temperatures plunged to -minus-35oC in some areas of Poland on Friday.
In Bulgaria, parts of the River Danube froze over, while another six people were found dead from the cold, bringing the overall tally to 16 in the last week, according to local media.
Most of the dead in the EU’s poorest country were villagers found frozen to death on the side of roads or in their unheated homes, the reports said.
More than 1,000 Bulgarian schools remained closed for a third day amid fresh snowfalls and piercing winds in the northeast.
In neighboring Romania, two more people died, bringing the overall toll to 24, and hundreds of schools remained closed.
In Rome, residents experienced only their second day of snow in 15 years, with white flakes covering palm trees, ancient Roman ruins and Baroque churches across the capital.
Up to 5cm of snow fell in some districts and ancient monuments like the Colosseum were closed to visitors for fear of damage to the structure.
Canals in Venice, where temperatures fell as low as minus-5oC, started freezing. However trains resumed normal service across the country except in and around Bologna and on a local line near Rome after days of delays.
Three people have died because of the extreme weather in recent days, including a homeless man found in Milan on Thursday.
An Italian ferry with 262 people aboard got into difficulties off the port of Civitavecchia, north of Rome late on Friday, hitting a harbor wall and ripping the side of the ship, port authorities said.
Two tugs managed to bring the Sharden safely in with all passengers and crew safe and sound.
In Estonia, a man was found frozen to death on a street in Tallinn, the first reported death there.
France also reported its first death after an 82-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease wandered out of his home in his pajamas in the eastern French village of Lemberg and died of hypothermia.
One person died in Serbia, but teams of workers plowed through snowdrifts to get food, supplies and aid to thousands of residents of mountain villages cut off by the weather.