46 die as 'Beast' keeps Europe in deep freeze

Countries across Europe shut schools and rushed to shelter homeless people as a deadly blast of Siberian weather dubbed the "Beast from the East" kept the mercury far below zero.

A guardsman stands on duty in the snow at Horse Guards Parade in London.

Countries across Europe shut schools and rushed to shelter homeless people yesterday as a deadly blast of Siberian weather dubbed the “Beast from the East” kept the mercury far below zero.

The death toll rose to at least 46 since Friday as a 75-year-old Dutchman went out to skate, only for the ice to crack beneath his feet.

Three children and two adults also had to be rescued in similar incidents in the skating-mad Netherlands.

The victims of the brutal cold also include 18 people killed in Poland, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four each in France and Slovakia, two each in Italy, Serbia and Romania and one in Slovenia.

Homeless people account for many of the dead, and cities across Europe have been racing to open emergency shelters to protect people sleeping rough.

In Germany, the national homeless association urged shelters to open during the day and not just at night.

“You can die of cold during the day too,” its chief Werena Rosenke warned.

Authorities are also urging people to look out for elderly relatives and neighbors after a French woman in her 90s was found frozen to death outside her retirement home.

And in the northern port of Calais, authorities were launching emergency plans to shelter migrants who camp out near the coast hoping to stow away on trucks bound for Britain.

Schools were shut across Kosovo, west Bosnia and much of Albania, as well as in parts of Britain, Italy and Portugal. Temperatures again plunged below -20 Celsius overnight in numerous parts of Europe — even hitting -36C in Glattalp, 1,850 metres above sea level in the Swiss mountains.

Ahead of a predicted thaw towards the end of the week, both Belgium and Switzerland marked their coldest nights of the winter so far.

And in the usually balmy south of France, residents in Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz were heading out with skis to zoom down the snowy streets of the beach resorts.

Europe’s cold snap comes as the Arctic experiences record-high temperatures, prompting scientists to ask if global warming may be playing a role in turning things upside down.

The icy blast has played havoc with transport networks. In Ireland, anxious residents were hoarding bread and milk as they braced for Thursday’s arrival of a storm expected to bring the heaviest snowfall in decades.

The National Emergency Coordination Committee has issued a red alert, ordering everyone in the provinces of Munster and Leinster to stay indoors from 4pm today until noon tomorrow.

Dublin’s travellers were already facing major disruptions, with Ryanair cancelling all flights in and out of the capital for the rest of the day.

Kosovo announced restrictions on electricity usage lasting between one and three hours, due to a surge in power consumption mirrored across Europe as people turn up the thermostat.

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