Cold snap death toll at least 221


LONDON – At least 221 people have died during a cold snap in which temperatures have plummeted to minus 30 degrees and below across eastern Europe, with Ukraine the hardest hit.

The cold has killed 101 people in Ukraine, where many of the dead were living on the streets. Health officials have ordered hospitals to stop discharging homeless patients after they are treated for hypothermia and frostbite, while authorities have set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters.

The week-long cold spell, eastern Europe’s worst in decades, is causing power cuts, frozen water pipes and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries, airports and bus routes.

An energy crisis is looming as Russian gas supplies to some states dwindle by up to 30 per cent. Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy are the states worst affected.

The cold spell has killed 24 people in Romania, 17 in Poland, 11 in the Czech Republic, at least two in Slovakia and one each in France and Germany. In Russia, officials said more than 64 people died of hypothermia in January. In Moscow, the temperature stayed below -15 for a third week running. – (Guardian service)