Danube shipping halted, smog chokes Poland

2017-01-10 17:40
Drift ice floats in the water of River Danube at the Szabadsag Bridge in Budapest, Hungary. (Peter Lakatos, MTI via AP)

Drift ice floats in the water of River Danube at the Szabadsag Bridge in Budapest, Hungary. (Peter Lakatos, MTI via AP)

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Bucharest - Officials suspended shipping along the River Danube, Europe's second longest waterway, on Tuesday as a polar spell continued to grip the region, causing hardship and deaths.

Romanian police halted shipping at midday for an undetermined period along a 900km stretch of the river which crosses Romania. Croatian and Serbian authorities also stopped river traffic on the Danube.

In Serbia, shipping was banned on the River Sava because of icy conditions, which claimed another two lives in southern Serbia. Authorities said an 88-year-old man and his son, 64, died from freezing temperatures in the village of Duga Poljana, in the south which has been hardest-hit by the recent cold spell. Serbian state TV reported the two victims, discovered by a man delivering bread from a neighbouring village, were extremely poor.

One person died and more than 10 were injured in Istanbul after a mosque canopy collapsed because of high winds and snowfall. It happened during a funeral service near Istanbul's main airport. Bulent Kerimoglu, a district mayor, told reporters ambulances rushed the injured to nearby hospitals.

Several Serbian municipalities have declared emergency measures to battle the extreme weather and dozens of villages in the south have been cut off by high snowdrifts.

In Romania, Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea on Tuesday ordered schools in the capital to remain closed for the rest of the week as the country battled the bitter cold which has led to travel delays, power outages and a surge in demand for natural gas and power.

Farther north in Poland, alarming smog levels led authorities to close schools and kindergartens for two days in the southern city of Rybnik to protect children from noxious fumes, and offer free public transport to try and improve air quality.

Poland's capital, Warsaw, offered free public transport on Monday, and the situation improved, although residents complained of coughing and irritated noses and eyes. Smog alarm levels were exceeded in Rybnik, Czestochowa, Katowice and another low-lying industrial region.

The smog mainly emanates from substandard fuels, such as coal mud, waste and plastic, burned in poor quality heaters in private homes, air monitoring expert Barbara Toczko told The Associated Press. She said authorities should help residents acquire heaters which use clean fuel and have low-level emissions.

She said that traffic fumes and industrial smoke also contribute to the air quality, but to a lesser extent as they have to meet European standards.

Read more on:    romania  |  poland  |  serbia  |  croatia  |  air pollution  |  weather

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