Dozens die as cold grips central Europe


DOZENS OF people have died as bitterly cold weather again grips central and eastern Europe.

At least 20 people perished in recent days in Poland, where more than 200 have died during a particularly harsh winter.

Most of the victims were homeless men who had been drinking and could not find shelter as the temperature plunged to -35 degrees over the weekend.

Power cuts plagued the country as electricity lines froze and snapped.

More than 30 died due to the cold in Romania over the past week. Officials announced measures to switch power stations and factories to using oil rather than gas, ensuring fuel for domestic users if demand soared or stocks dwindled. One passenger train was derailed and many others were delayed for hours due to the conditions.

In neighbouring Bulgaria, rescue services battled through snow drifts to supply villages cut off by blizzards which also forced the closure of major highways. Schools and other public buildings were closed as about 20 towns recorded their coldest daytime temperatures on record.

German charities said this winter was the deadliest in more than a decade, after at least 14 homeless people died due to the extreme weather. Flights and trains were delayed and cancelled across the country, and traffic on major waterways such as the Main-Danube canal and parts of the Elbe river was badly disrupted or halted due to ice.

At least six people froze to death in the Czech Republic, while hundreds were trapped in their cars for hours on a highway in snowbound Ukraine, where the cold has killed more than 250 since mid-December.

In Russia, the national weather centre said temperatures had not risen above zero degrees anywhere in the European part of the country this month.

The cold spell was predicted to continue for at least another day across central Europe, with temperatures in Latvia’s Baltic Sea capital, Riga, expected to drop to -29 degrees last night and Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Varna far to the south braced for -14 degrees.