More than 150 dead in Europe freeze

2012-02-02 15:06

Warsaw - A cold snap kept Europe in its icy grip on Thursday, pushing the death toll past 150 as countries from Italy to Ukraine struggled to cope with temperatures that reached record lows in some places.

Nine more people died in Poland overnight as temperatures plunged to -32° in the southwest, bringing the overall toll to 29 since the deep freeze began last week, national police said.

In Ukraine, tens of thousands of people have headed to shelters trying to escape the freeze that the emergencies ministry said has now killed 63 people.

Most of them literally froze to death on the street, with only a handful making it to hospital before succumbing to hypothermia, the ministry said.

Shivering and hungry, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have sought help in the more than 2 000 temporary shelters set up by the authorities to help the poor survive the fearsome spell of cold weather.

The shelters offer warmth and hot food in a country where temperatures fell to -33° in the Carpathians in the west of the country and -27 in the capital Kiev.

Schools closed

"I am unemployed. I have somewhere to live but nothing to eat. I ate here and it was good - bread with a slice of fat and an onion as well as porridge," said Olexander Shemnikov, an out-of-work engineer after visiting a shelter in Kiev.

In Romania, eight people died overnight because of the cold, bringing the overall toll to 22, the health ministry said. Schools remained closed in some parts of the country as temperatures reached -31°.

In Bulgaria, where the mercury dipped to lows not seen in a century, at least 10 people have died, according to media. Authorities have not released official figures.

With parts of the Danube freezing, authorities moved some vessels to ports further away to protect them from the advancing ice.

And in the capital Sofia, some residents found their money frozen as automated teller machines stopped functioning, according to local media.

In Latvia, 10 people have died around the capital Riga alone, with no figures available for the rest of the country.

Villagers trapped

In neighbouring Lithuania a 55-year-old homeless man found in the ruins of an abandoned house in the port city of Klaipeda became the ninth victim of the chill.

In Italy, hundreds of people were trapped overnight on trains as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the centre and north caused widespread disruptions on roads, railways and at airports.

The cold has so far killed an infant in Sicily and a 76-year-old pensioner in Parma during what forecasters say is the coldest weather in Italy in 27 years.

In Austria, an 83-year-old woman was found frozen to death in the woods after apparently slipping on her daily walk and not managing to get up again, becoming the country's second victim of the cold snap, officials said.

In Serbia, the cold has killed six people and trapped about 11 500 others, mostly in remote mountain villages inaccessible by road.

Trucks banned

In Belgrade, homeless people unable to secure one of the 140 spots in the capital's sole shelter took refuge in trolley buses and trams.

"Most of the drivers let them stay in the vehicle if they stay in the back part and do not disturb the trip," a company official told the Blic daily. "There are significantly more homeless people in public transport when it is so cold outside."

The freeze has also killed two people each in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Greece.

In France, where several regions have been placed under "deep cold" watch, authorities banned trucks on several major highways where the risk of snowfall and ice remained high.

  • Gavin - 2012-02-02 15:29

    This is very sad. No one should be allowed to freeze to death. The governments of the world should be ashamed of stuff like this. No elected official should be allowed to sleep until he's provided shelter and a meal to all under his care. Welcome to the planet earth - home of the human disgrace.

  • leondlg - 2012-02-02 15:53

    -32° . Cannot imagine it.

  • zmputa - 2012-02-02 16:35

    Sadly, most affected are poor and less fortunate.

      Ruan - 2012-02-02 16:51

      @Maggyone - Why always the race card? Bloody racist!

      africanwolf - 2012-02-02 17:17

      @ Maggyone To your knowledge , there are Black-brown people living in the whole of Europe , I wonder why they refuse to let go Europe? It will be a fair swop 50 milion Africans for 5 million Europeans :)

      Fidel - 2012-02-03 00:36

      Maggyone is merely stating her opinions, no need to attack her. Just to add, it wasn't only the freezing but starvation and plagues that they ran away from. Poor Europe, broke and freezing.

      africanwolf - 2012-02-03 06:02

      @ Fidel People like Maggyone will always complain they stole from me, they took my land etc.. while she did not own any land in the first place. as I stated above , there are many African people living in Europe (France, Germany, England, etc..) Can you imagine if Europe will ask all of them to return back to their roots in Africa.I don't think they would like the idea . So dear Maggyone, South Africans of European descent, are here to stay. If you want some land you are welcome to take a loan and buy it, like I do. And if You have a problem to live with other races, hit your head on the wall, it might help.

  • Paul - 2012-02-03 08:31

    The coldest winter in parts of Europe for a century! I wonder how that fits into the IPCC's model for global warming?... I mean climate change. I guess all the man made greenhouse gases are making things get colder now;-)

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