Rare Rome snowstorm closes Colosseum

2012-02-03 16:02
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Europe's winter wonderland

Europe has been blanketed in snow as a Siberian cold front has brought record low temperatures to the region. See a selection of stunning pictures.

Rome - Heavy snow fell in central Rome on Friday, giving tourists a rare sight of whitened landmarks such as Saint Peter's Square and the Trevi Fountain, while the Colosseum and the Roman Forum were closed due to the icy conditions.

In the heaviest snowfalls in the Italian capital since the 1980s, around 40cm of snow had settled in the northern outskirts of the city by midday. It is forecast to intensify throughout the day and overnight, before easing off on Saturday.

Mayor Gianni Alemanno instructed schools to remain open on Friday and Saturday but not to hold any lessons in order that children unable to attend did not fall behind. He said on Friday only 5% of children had gone to school.

The unaccustomed snow caused traffic jams around the ancient city.

Heavy snow has fallen over much of Italy this week causing severe disruption to train and road transport, especially in the mountainous regions of Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria.

On Wednesday passengers were stuck for seven hours in the countryside on a train that was to have gone from Bologna in the north to Taranto in the south after the electrical wires froze over.

222 dead

Meanwhile the death toll from the cold snap across Europe has gone past 220 with forecasters warning that the big freeze would tighten its grip at the weekend, say reports.

In the last seven days, a total of 222 people have died from the cold weather, according to an AFP tally.

Ukraine's emergencies ministry raised the death toll substantially from a previous 63 to 101, of whom 64 died on the streets.

Almost 1 600 people have requested medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia and thousands have flocked to temporary shelters that have been set up across the country for people to find warmth and food.

The ferocious temperatures killed eight more people over the last 24 hours in Poland, bringing the death toll to 37 since the deep freeze began a week ago, police said.

Temperatures plunged to -35° in some areas of Poland, while in Bulgaria parts of the River Danube have frozen over, severely hindering navigation.

Schools closed

Elsewhere in Bulgaria, another six people were found dead from the cold, bringing the overall tally to 16 in the last week, according to local media. No official figures have been released.

Most of the dead in the European Union's poorest country were villagers found frozen to death on the side of the road or in their unheated homes, the reports said.

More than 1 000 Bulgarian schools remained closed for a third day on Friday amid fresh snowfalls and piercing winds in the northeast of the country.

In neighbouring Romania two more people died, bringing the overall toll to 24, and hundreds of school remained closed.

Estonia and France announced their first casualties of the freeze, with a man found frozen to death on a street in Talinn and an 82-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer's dying of hypothermia in the eastern French village of Lemberg after wandering out of his home in pyjamas.

Rescuers in Serbia ploughed through snowdrifts to get food, supplies and aid to residents of mountain villages, where thousands of people have been trapped by the inclement weather.

UK bracing for snow

"To help a woman who needed to reach a hospital we were breaking through 2m snow drifts, which lasted for two and a half hours," said Vedran Taskovic, a rescuer in the southeastern town of Vranje.

"Eventually, we had to make a sleigh of nylon bags to get her to the road, as she couldn't walk."

Swathes of Britain were bracing for snow after temperatures plunged to -11° overnight in Chesham, southeast England, with authorities warning that the cold could catch people off-guard after a warmer-than-normal winter so far.

The French, who have cranked up their heating systems were on Monday expected to break an all time power consumption record set in 2010, with consumers being asked in some regions to turn off appliances for at least four hours per day to avoid blackouts.

The cold snap has also killed people in the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania, Austria and even Greece.

Read more on:    estonia  |  romania  |  poland  |  ukraine  |  italy  |  uk  |  france  |  bulgaria  |  weather
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