Cold wave kills at least 20 across Europe

Jan 9, 2017

A cold wave across Europe has left at least 20 people dead in the past two days, including several homeless and migrants, authorities said Saturday, with the frigid temperatures expected to continue through the weekend.

Russia meanwhile celebrated the coldest Orthodox Christmas in 120 years, and Istanbul was covered with a blanket of snow.

Ten of the latest victims of the cold perished in Poland where sub-freezing conditions remain with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.

“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the Polish government centre for security (RCB).

“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”

In Italy in the past 48 hours the cold has been blamed for seven deaths, including five homeless people, two of them Polish nationals, authorities said.

There was heavy snowfall in central Italy and also in the southeast where the airports at Bari and Brindisi as well as in Sicily were closed Saturday morning.

Temperatures in Moscow fell to minus 30 degrees overnight and to minus 24 in Saint Petersburg where police found the body of a man who had died of hypothermia.

And in Bulgaria on Friday the frozen bodies of two Iraqi migrants were discovered by villagers in a mountain forest in the southeast of the country near the border with Turkey.

Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.

– Snow in Istanbul –

The winter snow storms reached Turkey, paralysing its biggest city Istanbul where hundreds of flights were cancelled on Saturday. Traffic through the Bosphorus strait was also disrupted.

Greece likewise has seen fierce cold weather this past week. In the north near the Turkish frontier a 20-year-old Afghan migrant died of the cold on Tuesday.

With more than 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees on its territory, Greece has moved many migrants to prefabricated houses and heated tents.

The temperature in Athens on Saturday was zero degrees Celsius and down to minus 15 in the north of the country.

The coldest temperature in Europe so far this winter was recorded on Friday in the Swiss village of La Brevine at minus 29.9 degrees.

That was still much warmer than the village’s record of the coldest temperature ever in Switzerland at minus 41.8 degrees on January 12, 1987. – AFP

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