Europe freeze brings deaths, power outages and closures

In Photo: Airport workers try to clean snow on and around a Turkish Airlines aircraft at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on January 8. More snow fell in Istanbul on Sunday, causing chaos among airline passengers with hundreds of international and domestic flights to and from the city grounded. Heavy snow also clogged roads, and halted shipping traffic in Bosphorus in the Turkish metropolis.

BELGRADE, Serbia—Heavy snow and frigid temperatures have gripped large parts of Europe, leading to dozens of deaths, freezing rivers, the grounding of planes and traffic accidents:

Albania

Frigid weather has caused at least four deaths in the last three days in Albania. Snow stopped falling on Monday, but freezing temperatures continue to engulf the whole country.

A 52-year-old Albanian man on Monday died in the town of Golem, 80 kilometers west of Tirana. On Sunday a 53-year-old street beggar was found dead in the city of Sarande, south of the capital Tirana.

A day earlier, another 38-year-old homeless person was found dead in the port city of Durres, west of the capital. A 62-year-old man died after sliding from a roof where he was trying to remove ice.

Scores of villages mainly in the north and northeast have been isolated and power and water cuts have been introduced, including the capital. The health and education ministry decided to keep classes suspended for students.

Bulgaria

The situation in northeastern Bulgaria remains critical with heavy snow drifts on the roads, freezing temperatures and power outages that have affected some 2,000 households.

Emergency teams trying to clear the roads to remote villages were hindered by strong winds.

Authorities issued a Yellow Code alert for low temperatures across Bulgaria on Monday.

The cold spell was expected to continue until the end of the week.

Schools across the country remained closed on Monday.

Croatia

Freezing temperatures and strong winds have created havoc along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, which isn’t used to such cold winters. Even the sea froze in shallow bays, trapping fishermen’s boats to the amazement of locals who haven’t seen anything like this in decades. The temperatures in Croatia’s tourist centers of Dubrovnik and Split dropped to minus 7˚Celsius (19˚Farenheit) and strong winds blew off ancient pine and olive trees on the coast.

Ferries and planes were grounded, and traffic over bridges banned. Water pipes, which are dug just below the surface as is the case in warm climates, have frozen, leaving thousands without running water as authorities tried to figure out ways to cope.

Czech republic

According to Czech public radio on Monday, six people are believed to have died of exposure during the latest cold snap, including in the capital, Prague. Meteorologists forecast freezing temperatures to continue in the coming days.

Greece

Swathes of Greece have been covered by snow, including several islands, some of which have seen more than a meter (more than 3 feet) of snow. Temperatures in some parts of northern Greece have plunged to as low as minus 18˚C (0˚F). A state of emergency was declared in the municipality of Kymi on the island of Evia, Greece’s second-largest island after Crete, where the snow in some areas reached 2 meters (6.5 feet), leading to cuts to electricity and water supplies.

The small eastern Aegean island of Oinousses reported severe problems from the heavy snowfall, with the local mayor telling Greek media the island had been without landline telephone connections for four days.

On the island of Lesbos, drivers needed snow chains to drive just outside the main port town of Mytilene, while heavy snowfall also hit Chios and parts of the southern island of Crete, from where some flights to Athens were canceled.

Chios and Lesbos are home to thousands of refugees, many living in precarious conditions in severely overcrowded camps. Many are still living in tents despite the severe weather. Rights groups have slammed the conditions and called on the Greek government to act quickly to reduce overcrowding.

Italy

Schools were closed in a handful of southern Italy cities not accustomed to such heavy snowfall. Individual schools also closed in Rome and Bologna because heaters weren’t working, news reports said.

The subfreezing temperatures have been blamed for the deaths of at least eight people and have disrupted road, rail, air and ferry travel.

Kosovo

In Kosovo snow continued to blanket the whole country and left many areas without power.

Police blamed the weather for the death on Monday of an ethnic Albanian man whose body was found on a forest road.

Though all national roads were open, the police advised careful driving and low speeds. Rural roads are either blocked or hard to drive. Power has been cut in many areas around the country.

Poland

The government says 10 people died in the cold on Sunday as Poland has been gripped by low temperatures. The deaths bring to 65 the number of weather-related fatalities since November 1, when temperatures started falling to freezing, especially at night.

The spokesman for the Government Center for Security, Anna Adamkiewicz, said on Monday that the latest deaths occurred across the country, either outdoors or in unheated summer cottages and abandoned houses.

The victims were nine men between the ages of 32 and 69, and a 52-year-old woman.

Romania

Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea said inmates from two prisons would be put to work clearing snow alongside anti-riot police in the Romanian capital. The inmates working on snow removal are doing so voluntarily, Firea said.

She said the initiative would help clean up the capital’s ice-clogged streets, which are only partially cleared.

Romania’s Energy Minister Toma Petcu said neighboring Bulgaria had urgently asked for extra electricity, but the request was declined since the cold weather has stretched Romania’s power grid.

Petcu said natural gas consumption in Romania could reach an all-time high on Monday due to the frigid temperatures.

Russia

In Moscow two people have died and 190 people with hypothermia have sought medical help in the Russian capital between New Year’s Eve and January 8, the last day of the holiday period in Russia, according to Russian news agencies quoting emergency medical official Sergei Gumenyuk.

The Russian Meteorological Service said the Orthodox Christmas Eve on January 6 was the coldest in Moscow since 1987 when temperatures plunged below minus 31˚C (minus 24˚F). Moscow schools, however, opened on Monday after the holiday recess. In Russia’s Urals, schools remained closed in the Tyumen, Khanty-Mansiysky, Sverdlovsk and Yamalo-Nenets regions, where temperatures of minus 35˚C (minus 31˚F) were recorded.

Serbia

Serbian authorities have declared emergency measures in 11 municipalities in central and southern parts of the country as fresh snow and extremely low temperatures have blocked roads and cut off villages. Despite minus 28˚C (minus 18˚F), residents in remote villages on the rough Golija mountain have refused offers from authorities to evacuate their homes during the deep freeze because they won’t abandon their animals.

The mostly elderly villagers said they’d rather freeze than abandon their sheep, goats, cows and chickens.

“We have wood and food for the animals,” says Dragomir, one elderly resident. “We’ll wait.”

Switzerland

THE Police in the southern Swiss region of Valais say a Russian couple were killed and their two children, aged 11 and 15, were gravely injured over the weekend after the vehicle they were travelling in tumbled about 225 meters along a snow-covered Alpine road.

Officials said the driver had been trying to park on the roadside, and snowy conditions appeared to have led to the deadly plunge into a pile of rocks. The two children were taken to a local hospital before being flown by helicopter to another in the capital, Bern. They were expected to survive, officials said.

Turkey

Turkish Airlines on Monday canceled 277 domestic and international flights to and from Istanbul’s two airports due to heavy snow. Schools around Istanbul also were closed and the Istanbul governor’s office said civil servants in the city would be able to leave work at 3:30 p.m. local time.

Istanbul schools will stay closed on Tuesday as snow continues to buffet the city, halting ferries on the Bosporus Strait that provide transportation for many commuters in the city straddling the narrow gap between Asia and Europe.

Television news showed cars slithering along slippery roads and students who had been given the day off staging snowball fights and tobogganing in parks blanketed in deep snow. AP

At a local coffee shop, stray cats trying to escape the cold snap lined up under heaters warming an outdoor terrace used by smokers.

 

 

Image Credits: İbrahim Yildlz/DHA-Depo Photos via AP