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January 11, 2017

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Death toll continues to rise as freeze grips Europe

OFFICIALS suspended shipping along Europe’s second-longest waterway yesterday as a polar spell gripped a large swathe of the continent. Meanwhile, the death toll from the deep freeze continued to mount.

Romanian police halted shipping at midday for an undetermined period along a 900-kilometer stretch of the Danube river, which crosses Romania. Croatian and Serbian authorities also stopped river traffic on the Danube.

In Serbia, the icy conditions claimed another two lives. Authorities said an 88-year-old man and his son, 64, died from freezing temperatures in the village of Duga Poljana. Serbian state TV said the two victims, discovered by a man delivering bread, were extremely poor.

Three people have been found dead in the past three days in Macedonia as temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius. One 68-year-old homeless man was found frozen to death in the capital, Skopje, while a 60-year-old man died in front of his home in the southern town in Strumica. An 80-year-old woman was discovered in her home in eastern Macedonia.

In Albania, it snowed in the southern city of Saranda for the first time in 32 years. A homeless Albanian man was found dead in the southeast city of Korca.

In the central town of Bulqize, temperatures plummeted to minus 22 degrees, with most rural areas cut off by snow. There were temporary power and water outages. Army helicopters were distributing aid in remote mountain areas.

Following criticism from aid agencies and others, authorities on the Greek island of Lesbos said they would move 250 refugees from tents into vacant hotel rooms as heavy snow continued to fall.

Elsewhere, snow grounded flights in the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, while a state of emergency was declared in several parts of Greece.

Snow dusted the ancient Acropolis in Athens and closed most schools, while more than 10 heated shelters were opened for the homeless. A city employee was placed under disciplinary review after he closed a shelter, telling occupants to leave as his shift had ended.

One person died and more than 10 were injured in Istanbul after a mosque canopy collapsed because of high winds and snowfall. It happened during a funeral service.

In Romania, Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea ordered schools to remain closed for the rest of the week as the country battled the bitter cold which has led to travel delays, power outages and a surge in demand for natural gas and power.

Farther north in Poland, alarming smog levels led authorities to close schools and kindergartens for two days in the southern city of Rybnik.

Smog alarm levels were also exceeded in Czestochowa and Katowice.

Polish officials said six people died on Monday because of the cold.


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