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Misery as Italy cold snap death toll rises to 17
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Feb 5, 2012

Italy, Rome : People skies in a street over the ancient forum on February 4, 2012 in Rome. Heavy snowfalls in Rome caused the normally mild-weather Italian capital to grind to a halt. AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli

"Snow-white" born in village cut off by blizzard
Zagreb (AFP) Feb 5, 2012 - A baby born in a Croatian village cut off by a blizzard is to be called "Snow-White", the Sata internet news site reported Sunday.

Her mother, Marta Glavota, 30, called emergency services for help to deliver the baby, but snow, which has been falling since Thursday, closed off all access to her southern village of Vitusa.

Emergency services got to within four kilometres (two miles) of the village before being forced back.

A doctor then called the pregnant woman and gave advice over the phone to two neighbours, who assisted in Sunday's birth of the black-haired girl Snjezana, meaning snow-white in Croatian.

Both mother and daughter were doing well, Sata said.

Snow and treacherous black ice caked the streets of the normally mild-weathered Italian capital Sunday, as snowed-in residents warned of food shortages and the cold snap's death toll rose to 17.

Following what was Rome's heaviest snowfall in 27 years, more than 400 members of the armed forces were called in to help clear the ancient city and surrounding areas.

Snow also fell in Milan and areas of northern Italy, and the bitter cold's toll rose to 17 after three homeless people were found dead, including one at Rome's main train station. The bitter cold that has gripped Europe for more than a week has claimed over 300 lives across the continent in total.

Fierce winds knocked over and killed an elderly woman who was walking to mass in Trieste in northern Italy, three men died shovelling snow and a 19-year-old man was killed in Florence when his car skidded off an icy road and into a river.

Large areas of the Lazio and Umbria regions had intermittent or no electricity, water or heating, taxis and buses struggled without snow chains and basic foodstuffs were running out in some areas.

In two towns in the Ciociaria region south of Rome, people cut off without water drank snow melted down in kitchen pots, La Repubblica newspaper said.

Riccardo Santucci from Frosinone told the paper: "We've been abandoned to ourselves, isolated from the world. We've had no water or light for 24 hours. We're warming ourselves by the stove and eating from cans."

As residents resorted to sawing through fallen trees blocking the roads themselves, many people said they had had no assistance from the authorities.

"It's awful. I had to walk two hours through freezing temperatures just to get to the metro," Rome resident Federico Maneski said. "The area is full of trees that have fallen on cars but no one's come to help us."

The chaos in the capital sparked a row between local and governmental authorities, with each blaming the other for the crisis.

Rome's right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, was widely criticised for failing to activate a winter emergency plan, but he said he had been badly informed.

Italy's civil protection agency said it warned Alemanno in advance and even offered assistance, which he turned down. The agency's head said the mayor then called him in desperation after the heavy snowfall on Friday.

As the city shuddered to a halt on Saturday, the mayor's suggestion that Romans should get out on the streets and shovel the snow themselves sparked an angry reaction from incredulous residents and calls for his resignation.

"Snow emergency. Abandon the city. I'm already in Milan!" a fake Alemanno said in a Twitter message that quickly spread online, much to the chagrin of the real mayor, who threatened an investigation and legal action against whoever wrote the Tweet.

"We can and must do more, much more, to anticipate and minimise the consequences," Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti said.

Meanwhile, the national rail operator faced class actions after hundreds of people spent the night on trains that lost power after electric cables froze. Trenitalia came under fire for severe delays and abandoning passengers in the cold.

Trenitalia issued a statement denying reports that passengers had been stuck on a train in Tivoli for 25 hours, saying they had been put up in a hotel -- but the local mayor, Sandro Gallotti, said the passengers would seek damages.

Consumer associations Federconsumatori and Adusbef also threatened to launch a class action against Trenitalia for "serious inconveniences."

The cold snap is expected to last into the middle of the week at least, and the civil protection agency said it may snow again in Rome on Friday.

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Snow and fog ground half of London Heathrow's flights
London (AFP) Feb 5, 2012 - Thousands of passengers were stranded on Sunday after heavy snow and forecasts of freezing fog forced London Heathrow Airport to cancel 50 percent of its scheduled flights.

"Airlines expect to operate about 50 percent of the 1,300 flights originally scheduled for today," the west London airport said in a statement on its website.

Six centimetres (2.4 inches) of snow blanketed Heathrow overnight, but the announcement came as the flakes stopped falling over Britain and as forecasters predicted a partial thaw.

"Our runways, taxiways and stands have been cleared of snow," said Heathrow. "The airport is getting back to normal. However there will still be disruption for passengers as indicated yesterday."

Officials had not reduced the flight schedule for Monday but warned there could be further cancellations as a result of the earlier disruption.

The airport, which is the world's busiest air hub in terms of international passenger traffic, said it expected no further snowfall on Sunday but said freezing fog was forecast from 6:00pm (1800 GMT).

The airport's decision to cancel thirty percent of Sunday's flights on Saturday, before any snow had fallen, was met with derision in the British press.

"27C in Munich, but still every plane flies," said the Mail on Sunday. "Meanwhile, despite 32 million on new snowploughs, Heathrow cancels flights BEFORE a flake of snow falls.

"Whatever the explanation, Heathrow's defeatist performance is not worthy of a world-class transport hub," the tabloid concluded.

Heathrow, which handles more than 180,000 travellers a day, defended the decision by saying it gave passengers better information about whether they would be able to fly or not.

"By cancelling flights in advance airlines have been able to rebook some people onto flights that are departing," it said, adding that its "snow plan" had worked "far better" than in previous years.

Heathrow came under heavy criticism in December 2010 after snow led to the virtual shutdown of the airport for several days.

Other British airports affected by the freeze include Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham and Luton, which ground to a halt for part of Saturday night after snow blocked the runways. Operations resumed on Sunday with some delays.


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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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