Bitter cold, snow raise Europe death toll

Feb. 6, 2012 at 3:00 AM   |   0 comments

LONDON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- An onslaught of extreme cold and heavy snow in Europe has killed more than 300 people, impeded travel and left about 50,000 without power, officials say.

Ukraine's Ministry of Emergencies reported the most deaths in the Siberian arctic snap that has lasted more than a week, with at least 131 dead as of late Sunday, after temperatures plunged below minus 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nearly 2,000 people were hospitalized for hypothermia and frostbite, the ministry said.

Russian gas-export monopoly OAO Gazprom, the world's largest natural-gas extractor, said it was unable to satisfy gas shortages in at least eight European countries, but said it was "doing its best" to meet soaring demand.

Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Italy were hit by supply reductions, a European Commission spokeswoman said.

Temperatures dropped as low as 58 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in Kazakhstan.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asked local authorities to waive a ban on admitting inebriated people to homeless shelters after eight more homeless people were found dead, bringing the death toll from the storm to 53, the independent Polish press agency PAP reported.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, under a state of emergency, rescued dozens of people trapped in cars after avalanches and strong winds in the east cut off hundreds of villages. More than 40 inches of snow fell in the capital, Sarajevo.

Thousands were trapped by snow in Serbia, while more than a dozen people were found frozen to death during the weekend in Hungary and Lithuania, authorities said.

In Italy, Rome had its heaviest snowfall since 1985, causing traffic chaos and forcing authorities to close several tourist sites, including the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

Government offices were to be shut Monday. People skied down main thoroughfares in Rome Sunday, the Financial Times reported.

Some regions of Italy -- including about 30,000 customers in the Rome area -- were still without power Monday, even after the storm passed.

At least 11 people died in Italy, and five in France.

Pope Benedict XVI appeared at his window in the Vatican wearing a white overcoat for his weekly address to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square Sunday.

"The snow is beautiful, but let's hope that spring comes soon," he said.

Britain's Meteorological Office forecast severe cold would continue in parts of England through Thursday, as snow ranged from about 7 inches in London to more than 2 feet, with 3-foot drifts, in other parts of the country.

London Underground passengers had to walk along the tracks after a Central Line train broke down, the Daily Mirror reported.

More than half the lines were delayed or suspended, Transport for London reported.

Airport passengers faced continued delays Monday after half of London Heathrow Airport's 1,300 scheduled flights were canceled Sunday following a cancellation of 30 percent Saturday, airport operator BAA Ltd. reported.

Gatwick Airport -- citing a $12.6 million investment in plows, snow blowers, de-icing agents and other equipment after December 2010, when a few inches of snow brought 4,000 flights to a halt and snarled global air traffic -- reported only a few cancellations.

More snow fell in eastern and southeastern England early Monday.

Topics: Donald Tusk
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