Nine die in Poland and Ukraine as blizzards sweep Europe

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 1:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 1:30am

Blizzards swept parts of Europe on Friday, causing at least nine deaths, closing roads and resulting in traffic accidents, travel delays and medical evacuations.

In Poland, the cold snap was blamed for five deaths in 24 hours. Three people died from hypothermia, while two more died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning heaters, the government Security Center said.

Officials in neighbouring Ukraine reported that four people had died from effects of the cold in the Lviv region near the Polish border.

In Romania, authorities said 90 people were rescued from stranded cars and that crews were working to save people stuck in some 30 cars on a major highway. More than 40 trains were not running due to snow on the tracks.

Senior emergency situations official Raed Arafat said Romanian authorities also evacuated 622 people who needed dialysis and 126 pregnant women. The blizzard is expected to ease off late Friday.

Snowfall and heavy winds closed roads and some train services in central Italy, pounded areas hit by recent earthquakes and forced the cancellation of some ferry crossings to islands off Naples and Sicily. Even Naples itself got a rare dusting of snow.

The frigid temperatures cancelled many Epiphany festivities, though about 35,000 people braved the cold to attend Pope Francis’ blessing in St. Peter’s Square.

Serbia’s state television reported that 22 people, including children, were injured in a pileup caused by the wintry weather on the outskirts of the southern city of Nis.

Local official Dragan Dimitrijevic said emergency crews were “helpless against the wind” and snow drifts that piled up to two-meter (6.6-feet) high.

“New piles form almost immediately after we clear up,” he said.

Turkey’s national air passenger carrier, Turkish Airlines, cancelled 192 domestic and international flights that were scheduled for Saturday after heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds were forecast for Istanbul.

Bulgarian authorities said some 650 villages across the country were without electricity due to high winds and heavy snow.

Emergency officials rescued snowed-in residents in villages in northern Albania, where up to 120 centimetres (47 inches) of snow fell, leading to power outages.

The temperatures dipped below freezing even along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, where winds up to 160 kph (100 mph) halted some ferry traffic to the islands and over the bridges along the coastline.

In Poland where temperatures dropped to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 F) early Friday in the southern mountainous region, winds whipped up to 90 kph (56 mph), and more than 2,000 households were without heating in the southern Rybnik area.

In Moscow, the Emergencies Ministry warned the temperature could plummet to minus 35 C (minus 31 F) over the weekend and urged people not to stay too long outside.