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20 April 2024

Freeze kills dozens in eastern Europe


Freezing weather has killed dozens of people in central and eastern Europe over the past few days and temperatures are set to drop even further, authorities warned on Monday.

In Poland, police said 10 died over the weekend as temperatures plunged to minus 27 degrees Celsius (minus 16 Fahrenheit), raising the death toll from exposure to 46 since the start of the winter, which had been unusually mild up till now.

Ukraine's health ministry said 18 people have died of hypothermia in the last four days. Most of them were homeless who froze to death in the streets or old people who died in their flats or after hospitalisation.

Nearly 500 people sought medical help for frostbite and hypothermia in just three days last week, the emergency situations ministry said. Authorities have opened 1,500 shelters to provide food and heat, as temperatures plunge to 30 degrees below zero Celsius in some regions of the country.

Police also reported that at least three people died of exposure over the weekend in the Baltic state of Lithuania. A 91-year-old woman and a 78-year-old man were among the victims.

In the Czech Republic, a 26-year-old man was found frozen to death in a field near the eastern town of Opava on Saturday.

Forecasters have warned temperatures are likely to plunge to minus 30C (minus 22F) in the country this week, after hitting minus 20C (minus 4F) in some places Sunday.

In Bulgaria, five died in snow storms last week, local media reported Monday as a Siberian cold front hit the Balkan country with temperatures dropping to minus 24C (minus 11.2F) in some places. Most were elderly people who lost their way and were left stranded out in the cold.

The towns of Chirpan in the south and Sevlievo in the centre recorded the lowest temperatures early Monday, at minus 24 and minus 23.4C (minus 11.2 and  minus 10.1F) respectively, the national weather service said.

It forecast that the mercury would drop even further in the next few days.

Four more people died over the past 24 hours in Romania, the health ministry said, raising the overall death toll to six.

In Serbia, three died of hypothermia over the weekend, the Tanjug news agency said Monday.

In the Valjevo region, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) south-west of Belgrade, a 49-year-old woman was found dead by workers clearing snow on a road and a 52-year-old man died close to his home in the village of Bobovo.

An 81-year-old woman was found dead in her own home in the village of Taor, Tanjug said.

Heavy snowfalls, that seriously disrupted road traffic and power supplies, ceased on Monday but the country was still experiencing a fierce cold snap as temperatures fell to minus 20C (minus 4F) overnight in central Serbia.

Heavy snowfall blanketed Turkey's commercial hub Istanbul, a city of 15 million, on Monday, paralysing daily life and disrupting air and land transport.

Officials said almost 200 flights were cancelled due to the snow expected to continue until late Tuesday, while hundreds of people were stuck in private vehicles or public transport.

Turkey is facing a severe winter and temperatures in the capital Ankara are expected to fall as low as minus 15C (plus 5F) in the next couple of days.