Europe cold snap sends ferry aground
Rome - Hundreds of people were plucked to safety on Saturday after a ferry caught in a snow storm ran aground off Italy, as a vicious cold snap that has claimed over 250 lives across Europe refused to ease its clench.
Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll of 122 deaths, including many people who froze to death in the streets, as temperatures plunged to as low as minus -38.1°C in parts of the continent.
Some airports were shut, flights and trains were delayed, and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear the falling snow.
But as Europe huddled indoors for warmth, Russian gas giant Gazprom said it could not satisfy western Europe's demand for more energy.
In Italy, the Shardon ferry ran aground shortly after setting off from Civitavecchia port near Rome, causing panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month which killed 32 people.
All passengers safe
Coastguard spokesperson Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25m hole in the ship's side above the waterline, was caused after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.
All passengers were evacuated to safety and no injuries were reported.
Heavy snowfalls in Rome caused the capital better known for its warm sunshine to grind to a halt. Parts of the Venice lagoon also froze over.
In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures reached -27°C in the north-east.
Snow fell in Bosnia for the second straight day, paralysing traffic, with one patient dying as the ambulance was unable to reach his village in the south of the country.
Public transport was disrupted in Sarajevo, with several tramlines blocked by snow since Friday evening.
Even Croatian and Serbian Presidents Ivo Josipovic and Boris Tadic were forced to postpone their departure from Friday's regional meeting, as they were blocked in the ski centre Jahorina, near Sarajevo.
"I can only leave the house if I dig a tunnel with a showel, my car has become a mountain of snow," IT worker Eldar Hajdarevic told AFP by phone.
In tiny Montenegro, villages in the mountainous north were cut off. Rescuers managed to evacuate 120 people, among them 31 school children from neighbouring Albania on a field trip, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.
Both airports - in the capital Podgorica and the Adriatic port Tivat - were closed for traffic, while the authorities ordered a railway service to be halted fearing mountainous avalanches.
The Netherlands' Amsterdam-Schiphol airport meanwhile reported "dozens of delays and cancellations".
The cold snap has also killed people in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, France as well as Austria and Greece.