– Death toll rises as big cold freezes Europe (DPA/Sydney Morning Herald – Feb 11, 2012):
Freezing temperatures left thousands of people stranded without power in the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe on Saturday, as the death toll from one of the coldest winters in years continued to rise.
In Montenegro, the government declared a state of emergency 24 hours into a blizzard that dumped another two metres of snow across the country and cut off access to northern regions. The death toll was expected to rise from three when rescuers reach isolated areas.
In Serbia, the authorities reported three new deaths, raising the overall death toll for the country to 19. An estimated 50,000 people remain isolated in remote villages. The energy situation has become critical, prompting the government to extend a two-day holiday next week to five days, keeping schools closed and cut the power supply to non-essential factories.
In Croatia, an average of 50 centimetres of snow were expected to fall during the weekend, while powerful winds blowing from the sea forced local road authorities to close some sections of the Adriatic highway.
Many villages in mountainous regions in Bosnia have been cut off since the start of the cold spell, nearly two weeks ago.
Temperatures dropped to as low as -32C in Poland’s southern Bieszczady Mountains, while eight people died in house fires, police said.
A further eight people died in Romania, the health ministry said, raising the overall death toll to 65. Tens of thousands of people remained isolated in the south, where the army, police and firefighters were trying to clear access routes and distribute food and water.
Heavy snowfall also hit many parts of Italy – especially its central and southern regions – where six recent deaths have been linked to the cold weather. Several remote villages in the central Marche and Umbria regions remained cut off as a result of unusually high snow levels.
In north-eastern Trieste, at least 10 people were injured when winds with speeds of more than 130 km/h lashed the Adriatic port city. The poor weather forced the cancellation of flights and Serie A football matches.
In northern Bulgaria, trains could not make their way through the deep snow, which the wind has blown on the railways, state radio reported.
The Bulgarian section of the Danube was completely frozen on Saturday, the national Agency for Maintenance of the Danube River said. The Bulgarian Maritime Administration has banned all navigation in the Bulgaria section, including ferries to Romania.
– europe snow blocks in tens of thousands (AFP/Pakistan Daily Times – Feb 11, 2012):
* Death toll from Europe’s big freeze rises past 550
BELGRADE: Snow drifts reaching up to rooftops kept tens of thousands of villagers prisoners in their own homes Saturday as the death toll from Europe’s big freeze rose past 550.
More heavy snow fell on the Balkans and in Italy, while the Danube river, already closed to shipping for hundreds of kilometres (miles) because of thick ice, froze over in Bulgaria for the first time in 27 years. Montenegro’s capital of Podgorica was brought to a standstill by snow 50 centimetres (20 inches) deep, a 50-year record, closing the city’s airport and halting rail services to Serbia because of an avalanche. Eight more people were reported to have died in Romania, taking the toll for the country to 65, three in Serbia, one in the Czech Republic and one in Austria.
Polish fire brigade spokesman Pawel Fratcak said Saturday that defective heating had triggered a spate of deadly blazes in houses and apartments, with eight people killed on Friday night and three the night before. New Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and his defence and interior ministers, who were sworn in only on Thursday, flew by helicopter to the eastern Buzau region, one of the worst hit, on Saturday. He called on the authorities to work hard to beat the challenges facing them, as food threatened to run out in some villages in spite of air drops.
At Carligul Mic firemen and volunteers helped people dig tunnels and trenches in the snow reaching to the house roofs in some places. “I’ve never seen as much snow in my whole life,” resident Aneta Dumitrache, 78, told an AFP photographer.
Authorities said an estimated 30,000 people were still cut off in Romania, and more than 110,000 in the Balkan countries, including 60,000 in Montenegro, nearly 10 percent of the population. Belgrade has taken steps to limit electricity consumption in the face of threatened shortages, calling on companies to reduce their activities to a minimum.
With Wednesday and Thursday already public holidays for Serbia’s national day, the government has also declared Friday a non-working day to extend into next weekend. Forecasters expect the cold snap, which started two weeks ago, to continue until mid-February. In Italy Rome was again blanketed by snow for the second time in a week, but authorities seemed to have learned from their previous experience, when the capital was brought to a halt.
Public transport functioned almost normally, thanks to 700 snowploughs and gritters mobilised, but other parts of the country, especially the south where snow is extremely rare, were having difficulties. In the Calabria region, Campana’s mayor Pasquale Manfredi, where many villages were cut off, likened the weather to “an earthquake without the shaking.” afp