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164 dead as cold snap grips Europe
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 3, 2012

Cold snaps kills eight more people in Poland
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 3, 2012 - The cold snap gripping Europe has killed eight more people over the last 24 hours in Poland, bringing the death toll to 37 since the deep freeze began a week ago, police said on Friday.

Temperatures plunged to as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the eastern European country, where most of the victims have been homeless.

Last winter 212 people died in Poland because of the biting cold.

Europe's cold snap has claimed 164 lives, as countries from Ukraine to Italy struggle with temperatures that plunged to record lows in some places and with more cold weather forecast.

Entire villages were cut off in parts of eastern Europe on Thursday, trapping thousands, while road, air and rail links were severed and gas consumption shot up during what has been the severest winter in decades in some regions.

In Ukraine, tens of thousands headed to shelters to escape the freeze that emergencies services said has killed 63 people -- most of them frozen to death in the streets, some succumbing to the hypothermia later in hospitals.

Nine more people died in Poland as the mercury dropped to minus 32 Celsius (minus 25.6 Fahrenheit) in some parts, bringing the country's toll to 29 since the fearsome spell of cold weather started last week, police said.

The Met Office in London warned that the cold snap was set to continue in many areas, with more snow expected in Kiev overnight Friday, though the temperatures could rise off their recent lows.

Berlin would have snow Friday with temperatures hitting minus ten Celsius overnight, the Met Office forecast.

Snow was also forecast in many parts of Britain over the weekend.

Homeless people in the region are at highest risk, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

"Although we expect harsh winters in this part of the world, this current freeze has come towards the end of a mild winter," said Zlatko Kovac, IFRC representative for Belarus and Ukraine.

"Homeless people have been caught unawares and unprepared. They dont follow long-range forecasts and are extremely vulnerable."

Red Cross Societies have helped with hot meals, warm clothing and blankets. The organisation said it had released more than 100,000 euros ($140,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to boost the aid effort.

Russian gas giant Gazprom, meanwhile, said it had boosted deliveries to Europe, while several European countries reported drops in Russian supplies, with operators in Austria and Slovakia both reporting falls of 30 percent.

Ukraine -- the transit point for most Russian gas headed to Europe -- denied it was taking a greater than usual share of the gas.

Tens of thousands of people in Ukraine have sought help in more than 2,000 temporary shelters as temperatures fell to minus 33 degrees Celsius in the Carpathians and minus 27 in the capital Kiev.

"I am unemployed. I have somewhere to live but nothing to eat. I ate here and it was good -- bread with a slice of fat and an onion as well as porridge," said Olexander Shemnikov after visiting a shelter in Kiev.

In Romania, eight people died overnight, bringing the country's overall toll to 22, the health ministry said. Schools remained closed in some parts.

In Bulgaria, at least 10 people have died, according to media.

With parts of the Danube river freezing, authorities moved some vessels to ports further away to protect them from the advancing ice.

In the Bulgarian capital Sofia, some residents found their money frozen as automated teller machines stopped functioning, according to local media.

In Latvia, 10 people have died around the capital Riga alone, with no figures available for the rest of the country. In neighbouring Lithuania a 55-year-old homeless man became the ninth victim of the deep chill.

In Estonia, organisers had to postpone a trio of cross-country skiing events after temperatures plunged to minus 30. Many Friday and weekend sports events have been cancelled elsewhere on the continent.

In north and central Italy, hundreds were trapped overnight on trains as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls caused widespread transport chaos.

The cold has so far killed an infant in Sicily, a 76-year-old in Parma and a homeless man in Milan during what forecasters say is the coldest weather in Italy in 27 years.

In France, 41 of the 101 regions were on alert for snow or "deep cold". In Paris, the army set aside nearly 600 places in military buildings to shelter the homeless from the cold.

Two people died in Austria, and seven perished in Serbia, where 11,500 others were trapped mostly in remote mountain villages inaccessible by road.

Five have died in the Czech Republic and two each in Slovakia and Greece.

In Belgrade, homeless people unable to secure one of the 140 spots in the capital's sole shelter took refuge in trolley buses and trams.

In neighbouring Bosnia, several remote hamlets in the east were cut off, forcing helicopter airdrops of food and supplies this week.


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Ukraine's cold snap claims over 100 lives: ministry
Kiev (AFP) Feb 3, 2012 - A week of ferociously cold temperatures in Ukraine has now claimed 101 lives, the Ukrainian emergencies ministry said in a statement Friday.

Substantially raising the previous toll of 63, it said that 11 people had died in hospitals as a result of hypothermia sustained in the cold snap, 26 passed away in their homes while 64 had perished in the streets.

Almost 1,600 people have requested medical attention for frostbite and hypothermia.

The ministry said that 2,940 shelters had been set up across the country where people could find warmth and food and another 100 would be opened in the next hours.

It said that 53,000 people had visited the shelters since the cold snap first struck Ukraine on January 27 with 11,000 using their facilities in the last 24 hours alone.

The cold temperatures were set to continue with minus 25 to 30 degrees Celsius (minus 13 to minus 22 Fahrenheit) forecast at night and minus 16 to 21 in the day, the ministry said.


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