Tue, Feb 07, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Deep freeze continues to vex Europe

WINTER OF DESPAIR:The wintery blast has engulfed much of Europe and even crossed the Mediterranean into north Africa, with 16 deaths reported in Algeria


People walk along an ice covered waterside promenade alongside Lake Geneva in Versoix, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

The deadly cold snap that has gripped Europe for more than a week wrought more havoc across the continent on Sunday, straining emergency services, grounding flights and pushing the death toll past 300.

The homeless have borne the brunt of the suffering, with dozens of transients freezing to death in unheated apartments, fire escapes or in makeshift street shelters.

French authorities on Sunday found the body of a homeless man who had frozen to death, bringing to at least 306 the number of cold-related deaths reported across Europe.

With night-time temperatures plunging as low as minus-40?C in Finland, the grim winter toll also rose in other countries.

Italy, Poland and Ukraine all recorded more deaths.

Ukraine announced another nine deaths, bring their total to 131 — most of them homeless people who perished on the streets since the freeze started nine days ago, Ukraine’s emergencies ministry said.

About 1,800 people had been hospitalized, and 75,000 people had sought warmth and food in more than 3,000 shelters across Ukraine.

The bitter cold front has engulfed much of Europe and even crossed the Mediterranean into north Africa, where as many as 16 people were killed on Algeria’s snow-slicked roads or in other weather-related accidents.

In Rome, traffic was virtually paralysed by black ice as snow covered the city.

As residents resorted to sawing through fallen trees blocking the roads, many people said they had had no assistance from the authorities.

“It’s awful. I had to walk two hours through freezing temperatures just to get to the metro,” Rome resident Federico Maneski said. “The area is full of trees that have fallen on cars, but no one’s come to help us.”

The Italian death toll reached 17 when three homeless people were found dead, while two men suffered heart attacks as they shoveled snow in the Abruzzo and Campania regions.

London’s Heathrow Airport, the world’s busiest passenger air hub, canceled half of Sunday’s 1,300 flights after it was blanketed in 6cm of snow. Heavy snowfalls in other parts of Britain left motorway drivers stranded overnight.

The cold claimed eight new victims in Poland, bringing that country’s toll to 53, and in Serbia, which has recorded nine deaths, authorities declared states of emergency in 32 municipalities, mostly in the south and southwest.

Almost 70,000 people remained cut off in snowed-in Serbian villages, with police and military units providing basic necessities, said Predrag Maric, the police official in charge of Serbia’s emergency services.

In Romania, six new deaths brought the toll there to 34.

The cold spell is forecast to last until at least the middle of the week.

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