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A boat struggles through freezing waters
Image: dapd

Big freeze grips Europe

February 7, 2012

Europe's emergency services have been working around the clock to tackle heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures as a deadly cold snap continues to grip the continent, killing dozens more.


More people died across Europe on Tuesday as authorities battled against freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall.

Six people froze to death in Poland and three more suffocated because of faulty heaters, the Interior Ministry in Warsaw said. In Hungary a further four people were found to have frozen to death in the past 24 hours. More bodies were also found in Germany, Greece, Italy and across the Balkans.

Officials in Serbia were forced to declare an "emergency situation" on Tuesday after some 70,000 people were trapped in snow-bound villages. In a bid to prevent the country's main waterways from becoming blocked, authorities employed army explosive experts to break up huge blocks of ice.

Dynamite was detonated on the river Ibar, the country's top water official, Alexander Prodanovic said. Icebreaking ships were also hired from Hungary to ease the flow of water on the Danube which was barely navigable around Serbia's capital, Belgrade, and had blocked river traffic along a 170-kilometre (105-mile) long stretch near the Romanian and Bulgarian border.

Other countries linked by the Danube, including Austria, Bulgaria and Romania, also threw their forces into the battle as temperatures remained well below freezing.

Villages isolated

In southern Croatia, emergency services fought to get food and medicine to people trapped in several hundred villages where up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) of snow had piled up.

Heavy snowfall across Eastern Europe also cut off hundreds of villages in southern Bulgaria where rain and melting snow had caused a dam wall to break on Monday, flooding an entire village. Four people drowned and four more were killed when their cars were swept away by high waters.

Meanwhile around 146 towns and villages were left isolated after severe blizzards in Romania. Up to 174 villages were without electricity, Alin Maghiar, spokesman for Romania's emergency department said.

A total of around 400 people have been killed in Europe since the cold snap began some eleven days ago, many of whom were homeless.

Ukraine remained the country worst affected with a death toll standing at 135 on Monday. Forecasters have warned that bitter temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) could continue until at least mid-February.

ccp/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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