Cold weather kills dozens in Europe

Mon, Jan 25, 2010, 00:00

Dozens of people have died in cold weather sweeping eastern Europe with temperatures today dipping to -35 degrees in some areas, causing schools to close and disrupting road and rail traffic.

From the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, arctic temperatures and fresh heavy snowfall wreaked havoc, hitting power, water and food supplies.

Meteorologists forecast a few more days of abnormally cold weather before temperatures start to rise.

In Poland, at least 16 people have died in the past three days. Temperatures fell as low as -35 degrees, emergency services said.

In Ukraine, many schools were shut after temperatures plunged towards -30 degrees in eastern parts of the ex-Soviet republic.

Cold weather has claimed nearly 200 lives in Poland since the onset of winter in November, 70 of them since the start of January.

In Ukraine, the cold has killed 256 since December 18th, the health ministry in Kiev said. Many of the victims were homeless.

Six people froze to death in the Czech Republic and 11 in Romania. Two homeless people died in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Schools were shut in a number of municipalities in northern and northeastern Bulgaria. Elsewhere, villages were cut off by heavy snow and suffered power, water and food supply problems.

Latvian authorities said the average temperature in the Baltic republic last week was -15 degrees, 19 below normal. Estonia and Lithuania reported similar data.

Heavy snow trapped 360 cars on a stretch of highway in Ukraine.

Polish rail travellers faced lengthy delays because of freezing tracks and power lines. In parts of Poland, thousands of households have suffered power cuts.

Power shortages have also pushed up gas consumption, leaving Poland's reserves half depleted. A Polish state agency said on Monday half of the damage had now been fixed.

Thousands of Ukrainians were also left without heating in recent days due to serious power failures.

Though eastern Europe has borne the brunt of the latest cold snap, temperatures also dropped to -17 degrees in the Netherlands, whose meteorological agency declared this the coldest winter in 30 years.

Reuters