by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Feb 4, 2012
Hundreds of people were plucked to safety Saturday after a ferry caught in a snow storm hit a breakwater off Italy, as a vicious cold snap that has claimed over 260 lives across Europe maintained its grip.
Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll of 122 deaths, including many people who froze to death in the streets, as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 38.1 degrees Celsius (minus 36.5 Fahrenheit) in parts of the continent.
Airports were shut, flights and trains delayed, and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear the falling snow.
But as Europe huddled indoors for warmth, Russian gas giant Gazprom said it could not satisfy western Europe's demand for more energy.
In Italy, the ferry Sharden hit a mole shortly after setting off from the port of Civitavecchia near Rome, causing panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month which killed 32 people.
Coastguard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25-metre (80-foot) hole in the ship's side above the waterline, happened after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.
All passengers were evacuated to safety and no injuries were reported.
The heaviest snowfall in 27 years in Rome caused the capital better known for its warm sunshine to grind to a halt, with taxis and buses unable to navigate through the icy streets without snow chains.
Parts of the Venice lagoon also froze over.
A 46-year-old woman died in Avellino, near Naples in southern Italy, after a greenhouse roof collapsed on top of her with the weight of snow and the ambulance failed to get through the blocked roads to her in time.
In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures reached minus 27 Celsius in the north-east. In Romania, four more victims were found, bringing the number of fatalities in the country to 28.
The cold snap has also killed people in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, France, Austria and Greece.
Snow fell in Bosnia for the second straight day, paralysing traffic, with one patient dying as the ambulance was unable to reach his village in the south of the country.
Public transport was disrupted in Sarajevo, with several tramlines blocked by snow since Friday evening.
Even Croatian and Serbian Presidents Ivo Josipovic and Boris Tadic were forced to postpone their departure from a regional meeting, as they were blocked in the ski resort of Jahorina, near the Bosnian capital.
"I can only leave the house if I dig a tunnel with a shovel, my car has become a mountain of snow," IT worker Eldar Hajdarevic told AFP by phone.
In tiny Montenegro, villages in the mountainous north were cut off. Rescuers managed to evacuate 120 people, among them 31 school children from neighbouring Albania on a field trip, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.
Both airports -- in the capital Podgorica and the Adriatic port of Tivat -- were closed to traffic, while the authorities ordered a railway service to be halted fearing mountainous avalanches.
The Netherlands' Amsterdam-Schiphol airport meanwhile reported "dozens of delays and cancellations," and London's Heathrow, the world's busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, cancelled 30 percent of Sunday's flights as it braced for heavy snow and freezing fog.
In France snow fell from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south, though the west of the country and the capital Paris were spared for the time being.
It's A White Out at TerraDaily.com
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Deep freeze hits Poland's hardy lake swimmers
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 3, 2012
Hardy fans of swimming in the frozen lakes of northern Poland have decided to call off a mass outing this weekend due to vicious cold snap gripping the country, organisers said Friday. "In the interests of our participants' security, we've decided to call off this year's Bath of the Brave," Ireneusz Dzienisiewicz told Poland's PAP news agency. This year's edition of the annual swim in a ... read more
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