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Italy braces for new wave of freezing weather
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Feb 9, 2012

Cold spell leaves at least 29 dead in Algeria
Algiers (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - A cold weather spell that has killed dozens of people in Algeria has sparked strong press criticism of what it sees as the government's poor response to the emergency situation.

The AFP latest tally compiled Wednesday recorded 29 deaths as snowstorms, hail and heavy rain had swept the north and east of the country.

But Channel Three radio, quoting official sources Thursday, said that 44 had died over the past week -- 30 in road accidents and 14 by asphyxia because of poor heating devices.

"Where are you mister ministers?" the popular Ecchourouk newspaper asked Thursday, accusing them of spending more time on the upcoming May general elections than dealing with relief for those caught out by the bitter weather.

"A catastrophe and no emergency relief to deal with it," wrote El-Khabar newspaper.

"What is the government waiting for to proclaim a state of emergency a week after the start of the cold spell" that affects 20 of the country's 48 regions, it asked.

Newspapers also criticized a sudden increase in food prices, along with that of gas bottles, used for heating, whose price has been multiplied five- or six-fold.

Italy braced for another wave of freezing weather Thursday, even as soldiers worked to free villages trapped in three metres of snow and with the death toll from the cold snap already at 43.

"The cold wave from the Arctic will hit northeast Italy first," said Franco Gabrielli, the head of the civil protection agency who has been put in charge of dealing with the weather emergency.

"Then it will start moving down."

Forecasts said freezing winds were set to pick up later Thursday and bring more snow on Friday and Saturday to Rome. The normally mild-weathered Italian capital is still recovering from its biggest snowfall in decades.

Local authorities in Rome have begun distributing 4,000 spades for local residents. They have boosted the city's stocks of salt to 1,000 tons and have dozens of snow ploughs at the ready after criticism of previous preparations.

Cars in Rome will have to travel with snow chains on Friday and Saturday.

Several people have died of heart attacks while digging snow and there have been cases of truckers freezing to death after being snowed in during traffic.

Hundreds of soldiers meanwhile were deployed in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy to dig out snowed-in villages near the town of Melfi.

Burst pipes also caused flooding in metro stations and a hospital in Turin.

The economic development ministry said the activation of oil-fired power stations and cutting supplies to industrial clients to make up for a decline in gas supplies from Russia had helped restore "balance" in the system.

It said it would begin restoring full supplies to all clients, domestic and industrial from Friday, as fuel supplies from Russia increased.

Croatian mayor blames price of boots for cold snap injuries
Zagreb (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - The mayor of the Croatian city of Split has blamed the high price of footwear for a record number of bone fractures after Croatia's Adriatic town of Split, was hit by an unexpected winter freeze.

The city's hospital ran through a two-year supply of plaster in five days, the authorities said Thursday, after snow and ice brought chaos to the region.

"We are not used to such weather conditions," the head of Split's main hospital surgery clinic Vedran Radonic told AFP.

Split's colourful mayor Zeljko Kerum blamed high value-added taxes (VAT) which he said was keeping people from buying proper winter boots.

"The problem is that people got hurt because they did not buy those boots, those (winter) tires and snow chains as 60-percent of the price (of those items) goes to the state" through VAT and other taxes, Kerum told reporters.

But his remarks provoked outrage as many of Splits' inhabitants accuse the local authorities of not having reacted adequately to the cold snap, which brought the city to a standstill.

Split, Croatia's second largest city situated on the Adriatic coast, usually enjoys mild Mediterranean winters.

But since last Friday, when the town was hit by a cold snap, more than 700 patients have been admitted to hospital for treatment of injuries such as bone fractures caused by falls on snow and ice, he said.

Heavy snow accompanied by stormy winds created ice on the streets of Split, some 400 kilometres (248 miles) south of Zagreb, including its famous palm lined seaside promenade, for the first time in decades.

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Serbia shuts Danube as mercury hits new low
Belgrade (AFP) Feb 9, 2012 - Serbian authorities shut down a 600-kilometre stretch of the Danube, Europe's busiest waterway, as temperatures hit a new low Thursday, forcing Belgrade to introduce electricity rationing for some firms.

The government ban imposed late Wednesday will remain in place for around 10 days and affects navigation on all the country's waterways, the infrastructure ministry said.

"The rivers Danube, Sava and Tisa are frozen and that is why the navigation ban is issued," deputy infrastructure minister Pavle Galic told the Beta news agency.

"It is expected that navigation will be possible in some 10 days," he added.

Temperatures on Thursday plunged to a new low of minus 28 degrees Celsius (minus 18 Fahrenheit) in the central town of Smederevska Palanka and minus 25 Celsius in the second city Novi Sad.

Electricity consumption reached a peak of Wednesday of 140.2 million kWh. State-run power utility EPS has imposed a limit on supply to some firms which are major power consumers but "not of vital importance", it said.

It warned housholds and companies that it will be forced to restrict supply if consumption is not reined in.

Large stretches of Europe's second-largest river and its tributaries have frozen over in the recent cold snap, threatening blockages that can cause flooding and forcing to bring in ice-breakers from Hungary and to consider blasting some of the ice barrages away with dynamite.

The Danube flows from 2,860-kilometres (1,780-miles) through nine central and eastern European countries, and is vital for transport, power, irrigation, industry and fishing.


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Aid sent by helicopter as thousands cut off in Europe
Sarajevo (AFP) Feb 8, 2012
Helicopters ferried food and medicine to iced-in villagers Wednesday as Europe's 12-day-old cold snap tightened its frigid grip on the continent, where more than 400 have died as a result. Eastern countries such as Poland and Ukraine account for more than half of the death toll, and dozens more have succumbed to the weather's secondary effects, such as asphyxiation due to shoddy heating. ... read more

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