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The Siberian cold wave that plunged Europe into one...

By REBECCA BRYAN

LONDON -- The Siberian cold wave that plunged Europe into one of its bitterest winter in nearly three decades and claimed 444 lives appeared to break Saturday but forecasters warned a thaw could unleash winter floods.

Temperatures were reported rising across the continent and weathermen predicted the cold wave would be over by Monday despite still treacherous conditions.

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In France, the National Weather Bureau said roads and sidewalks still were dangerous, despite a rise in temperatures Saturday. In Lyon and Corsica, warmer temperatures caused hundreds of basement floods as ice in broken pipes melted.

A weather bureau spokesman said the cold wave, which brought record low temperatures and snow to the Cote d'Azure, will be 'definitely finished' by Monday.

In West Germany Saturday a gas explosion wrecked a three-story house in Hanover, killing two women and a 5-year-old girl, officials said. That brought the country's unofficial weather toll to 33.

The smog alert imposed Friday continued Saturday in the industrial Ruhr, home of 5 million people and the biggest industrial region in Europe.

Except for the Milan area and other northern regions, Italy's worst siege of snow since 1956 started returning to normal last week.

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To help in the massive cleanup operation, the government Friday called up 2,500 army reservists to join 5,000 troops already clearing streets and highways in various parts of the country.

In Milan, troops used Leopard tanks equipped with rubber tracks and snowplow attachments to clear main city streets.

Fog forced Milan's main Malpensa airport to remain closed Saturday until 10 a.m. (0900 gmt), when a jumbo jet from New York was the first plane to land.

On Saturday five people in Milan were reported dead as a result of falls in icy streets, bringing the unofficial weather death toll for Italy to 59 since Jan. 6.

In Yugoslavia, two people were reported dead in weather-related incidents Saturday, bringing the unofficial total to 42.

In Austria four people were reported dead, including two men who froze to death on their way home from bars and an 87-year-old man who died shortly after being found in his bedroom suffering from hypothermia.

A fourth man died Friday night when his toboggan crashed into a tree, bringing the total number of weather-related deaths to 26.

In southwest England and Wales, where 8 inches (20 cm) of snow Friday cut off villages and froze diesel fuel in trucks, main roads were opened and residents began digging out with snowplows provided by the government.

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A spokesman for the London Weather Center said milder temperatures were on the way and would likely bring flooding.

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