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Europe cold snap claims 260 lives, sends ferry aground
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Feb 4, 2012

Ukraine's cold snap leaves 122 dead: ministry
Kiev (AFP) Feb 4, 2012 - At least 122 people have died in Ukraine as a result of the bitterly cold weather that has swept the country for over a week, the emergencies ministry said on Saturday.

Twelve people had died in hospitals, 32 in their homes while 78 had succumbed to the cold on the streets, it said. Over 3,000 shelters have now been set up to provide people with warmth and food.

The ministry said Saturday would see slightly milder weather although with temperatures still hitting minus 22 degrees Celsius (-7.6 Fahrenheit) at night in some places.

London Heathrow cancels a third of flights as snow forecast
London (AFP) Feb 4, 2012 - London's Heathrow Airport on Saturday cancelled 30 percent of Sunday's flights as it braced for heavy snow and freezing fog. The airport, which is expecting up to 15 centimetres (six inches) of snow overnight, said it would publish a list of the flights it will operate on its website at 6pm (1800GMT) Saturday, but warned further cancellations were possible.

"We expect the percentage of passengers who are able to fly to be higher than 70 percent as airlines will transfer people between flights," the airport said in a statement on its website.

"Passengers should contact their airline for more information."

The west London airport, which is the world's busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, said it expected snow at Heathrow from 5pm (1700 GMT) on Saturday until 6 am on Sunday, with up to 15 centimetres to fall in total.

Officials at the airport, which handles more than 180,000 passengers a day, also warned of reduced visibility and possible freezing fog from 1800 GMT.

Heathrow's chief operating officer said the cancellations would ensure that "the greatest number of passengers can fly with the minimum amount of disruption."

"It also means that those passengers whose flights are cancelled will know in advance, and can make alternative arrangements or rebook in relative comfort," Normand Boivin said.

Britain's Met Office forecaster issued its second highest severe weather warning on Saturday, with swathes of the country expecting heavy snow and travel disruption.

Northern, central and eastern England are expecting up to 15 centimetres of snow. Light flurries began falling on the city of Manchester, northwest England, around midday.

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.


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Snow paralyzes Rome, cold snap death toll reaches 5
Rome (AFP) Feb 4, 2012 - The Italian capital was paralyzed Saturday after the heaviest snowfall in 27 years, while freezing temperatures, ice and snow hit from Milan to Naples and the cold snap death toll rose to five.

A 46-year-old woman died in Avellino, near Naples in southern Italy, after a tarpaulin loaded with snow suddenly gave way on top of her and the ambulance failed to get through the blocked roads to her in time.

Heavy snowfalls overnight caused havoc in the normally mild-weather capital, with taxis and buses unable to navigate the icy streets without snow chains and local and governmental authorities blaming each other for the crisis.

Italy's Civil Protection Agency handed out 2,000 shovels to people in Rome and authorities asked residents to help clear the snow.

While tourist sites such as the Colosseum remained closed for a second day, some people braved the cold to take advantage of the rare snowfall to go skiing in the city's large Villa Borghese park.

More than 300 people including crew were aboard a ferry which hit a breakwater soon after midnight off the west coast in a snow storm, causing panic among passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month which killed 32.

No injuries were reported aboard the ferry, which had a 25-metre (80-foot) hole torn in the ship's side above the waterline shortly after setting off from the port of Civitavecchia near Rome.

Coastguard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident happened after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.

Schools were closed in much of central and northern Italy and streets were widely deserted after authorities warned people to stay indoors.

Emergency services freed people trapped in cars and trains in freezing temperatures. Over 150 people were stuck in a train for 12 hours overnight in the Abruzzo region with scarce water supplies.

Emergency services also rescued 20 people blocked in their cars overnight near Rome, and two people were taken to hospital.

Tuscany region ordered all emergency services to be on high alert as residents in Florence suffered a lengthy blackout and temperatures dropped to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the region.

In Venice, sections of the lagoon froze over.

Trains were severely delayed between Florence and Bologna and more than 40 flights were cancelled from Rome's Fiumicino airport.

Italy's emergency services received over 3,000 calls during the night Saturday. Five people have died due to the extreme weather in recent days.


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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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