Christmas cold snap adds to death toll in eastern Europe


Dozens of people have been killed in a cold snap sweeping across Russia, Hungary, Poland and Romania over the Christmas holidays, authorities in eastern Europe reported yesterday.

In Moscow, nine people died last week, bringing the total number of deaths from the cold to 69 this winter, according to city emergency services. A total of 178 Muscovites have been hospitalised for hypothermia this winter and 30 others for chilblains.

In Hungary, the Christmas cold killed 11 people, bringing the death toll to 70 since mid-November. Most of the victims were homeless people, men aged 40 to 50 who fell asleep outdoors in temperatures of 10C after drinking too much alcohol, police said.

The death toll from the cold weather hitting Poland since mid-November rose to 162 when the body of an 86-year-old woman was found in a field in Sarzyn, a village in south-east Poland. She died of hypothermia, probably after fainting, police said.

In Romania, five homeless people have died in recent days as the thermometer dropped to 15C in Bucharest, bringing the death toll to 40. The most recent victims were found either in the street or in makeshift shelters. Freezing rain and heavy snowfall have also killed another 100 people in traffic accidents in Romania this winter.

Dense fog shut down Greece's northern international airport in Thessaloniki yesterday. One flight from Athens to Belgrade that was due to stop in Thessaloniki was cancelled. An Athens-London and an Athens-Munich-Stuttgart flight skipped a scheduled stop in the northern Greek city. Local airports in Florina, Kastora and Ioannina were also closed by bad weather.