At least 18 people die as freezing conditions cause chaos across continent.
|Residents across Europe are struggling to cope with a heavy snowfall that has shown no sign of abating [AFP]|
Heavy snowfall has continued to sweep across northern Europe, shutting down airports, blocking roads and forcing international rail service cancellations.
In Poland at least 30 people have died since Tuesday, as temperatures plunged to minus 33 degrees Celsius, with reports of up to 18 people freezing to death on Thursday night alone.
Severe frost has also left some 150,000 people without heating in the southern Polish city of Czestochowa on Friday.
The cold weather has also claimed around eight lives in the Czech Republic since the beginning of the week, while in neighbouring Slovakia two people were reported to have frozen to death. Another five people have died in Lithuania.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said that homeless people are most at risk of exposure.
“The army has opened up their barracks to provide beds for around 900 hundred people who otherwise would be sleeping rough,” she said.
Weather forecasters warned on Friday that more severe weather was to come as the unseasonable cold snap, which has lasted nearly a week, brought the UK to a halt, with thousands of schools closed and commuters stranded.
Gatwick Airport, Britain’s second busiest airport after Heathrow, has closed for a second consecutive day.
British officials have promised a review of how the transport network is coping, as local media said the country had become a “laughing stock” abroad, but pointed out that the rest of Europe was also faring badly as temperatures plummeted.
The Eurostar rail service, which runs trains between London and Paris and Brussels, cancelled more than 20 trains on Thursday and said it would operate a significantly reduced service until Sunday.
Geneva’s international airport only reopened on Thursday morning after heavy snow caused it to close for a day and a half.
Dozens of flights were also cancelled or delayed at airports in Paris, Prague and Frankfurt.
Snow storms that have swept the continent in recent days intensified in many places Thursday, including in London, where the first proper falls of the season left landmarks such as the British Museum covered in a layer of white.
Residents in the German capital of Berlin woke up to more than 10cm of snow, while almost 40cm fell in the southeastern city of Gera, causing disruptions on train services and the closure of numerous roads.
Forecasters warned temperatures were likely to fall even further overnight Thursday, plunging as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius in Brandenburg, the region surrounding the German capital.
Danish officials meanwhile sent out the army in armoured cars to transport patients, as well as the frail and elderly, to hospitals to the south of Copenhagen after heavy snowfall cut off normal traffic.
Tuesday was the coldest in Denmark for 120 years, dropping to minus 22 Celsius in the northwest.
While most of Europe shivered however, residents of the Bulgarian capital Sofia enjoyed a seasonal heatwave with temperatures topping 21 degrees Celsius, while unseasonably high temperatures were also recorded in Greece.