At least 10 dead as Europe battles unusual icy weather

AFP
A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe yesterday, leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches.
AFP

A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe yesterday, causing headaches for travelers and leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches.

The icy weather is in stark contrast to conditions in the Arctic itself, which is experiencing an “off-the-charts” heatwave this week, according to the European Geosciences Institute.

Meteorologists have documented temperatures above freezing in some parts of the Arctic, causing astonishment among many scientists.

But to the south swathes of Europe were shivering under temperatures well below freezing, claiming at least 10 lives across the continent in a snap dubbed “the Beast from the East” by British tabloids.

At least five deaths were reported in Poland alone on Monday as the mercury dropped to minus 16 degrees Celsius overnight in Warsaw.

That brought the number of Polish deaths from freezing to 53 since November 1, and temperatures were expected to remain below minus 12 degrees across the country yesterday, with the cold accentuated by a biting wind.

In Lithuania, temperatures dropped to as low as minus 26 degrees overnight, and one suspected death of a man from freezing was reported in the capital Vilnius.

In Britain, authorities warned of 5 to 10 centimeters of snow yesterday and the likelihood of travel delays on roads, rail networks and at airports, while electricity and even mobile phone service may be cut in some areas.

On Monday, British Airways canceled more than 60 short-haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow airport.

Some of the iciest conditions were reported in Italy, where many schools and day-care centers were closed, to the consternation of parents already preparing for closures next week linked to this weekend’s general election.

Public anger was also growing over the disruptions to rail services across the country, as travelers learned that many track switches did not have defrosting equipment, meaning they had to be dug out by hand.

In Naples, the airport was closed early yesterday and bus services in the city halted because of ice.

A driver in Turin got a fright when a stalactite broke off from an overhead bridge and shattered his windshield — though he managed to keep control of his vehicle.

One of the coldest points overnight was at Glattalp in Switzerland, where the temperature fell to minus 38 degrees, extreme even for the high-altitude area (1,850 meters), according to the ATS news agency.

In France, which has remained frigid but dry during the cold snap, forecasters warned of heavy snow across much of the country starting today, though spring-like temperatures would soon follow.

At least three people have died in France.

Across the continent, authorities have been opening emergency shelters and increasing relief efforts for the homeless.


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