More than 260 people were rescued early Saturday from a ferry which ran aground off Italy in a snow storm, while emergency services freed people trapped in cars and trains in freezing temperatures.
The Shardon ferry ran aground shortly after setting off from Civitavecchia port near Rome, causing panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month which killed 32 people.
Coastguard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25-metre (80-foot) hole in the ship's side above the waterline, was caused after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.
The coastguard evacuated the passengers and no injuries were reported.
Heavy snowfalls in Rome caused the normally mild-weather capital to grind to a halt. Schools were closed in much of central and northern Italy and streets were widely deserted after authorities warned people to stay indoors.
Over 150 people were stuck in a train for 10 hours overnight in the Abruzzo region with scarce water supplies.
Emergency services also rescued 20 people blocked in their cars overnight near Rome, and two people were taken to hospital.
Tuscany region ordered all emergency services to be on high alert as residents in Florence suffered a lengthy blackout and temperatures dropped to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the region.
In Venice, sections of the lagoon froze over.
Trains were severely delayed between Florence and Bologna and over 40 flights were cancelled from Rome's Fiumicino airport.
Italy's Civil Protection Agency representative in Milan, Romano La Russa, sparked an angry reaction after calling on local authorities to put political asylum seekers to work clearing snow and salting public roads.
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