Central European country reels under freezing conditions that have all but cut off aid to the far-flung areas.
|More than 122 people have died and another 1,200 have been admitted to hospital due to cold-related injuries [EPA]|
The death toll from the cold snap across Europe has risen to more than 260, with the winter misery set to hit thousands of those seeking to escape it, as air traffic was hit.
Airports were shut, flights and trains delayed, and highways gridlocked, as emergency services raced to clear falling snow on Sunday.
Steven Keates, a weather forecaster at Britain’s Met Office, said on Sunday the severe wintry conditions were expected to last, and spread to other areas.
“It will still be very cold. Maybe not quite the exceptional temperatures we’ve seen this last week, but still very cold,” Keates said, adding that the current front which brought snow and ice to Britain overnight was now heading to Belgium and Germany.
“[It will be] perhaps turning increasingly unsettled across southern and eastern Europe, so that will probably bring a risk of snow for Italy across to Greece and up round the Balkan countries.”
Nine more deaths from cold were registered in Ukraine overnight, emergencies services said on Sunday, taking the death toll to 131 from a nine-day cold spell which has brought freezing temperatures to the ex-Soviet republic.
A statement from the Ukraine Emergencies Ministry said 1,800 people were receiving hospital treatment for cold-related ailments. Many of the dead were homeless people whose bodies were found in the streets under snow, in rivers and in doorways.
Metro stations in the capital Kiev have become sanctuaries overnight for the homeless to find warmth. More than 3,000 heated tents had been set up around the country to provide accommodation and dispense food and drinks to homeless people.
Eight more people had frozen to death over the past 24 hours in Poland, bringing the death toll there to 53 since the cold snap began, PAP news agency reported National Police Headquarters as saying.
Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, has now asked local authorities to waive the ban on admitting inebriated people to homeless shelters.
The extreme cold also caused the death of at least three people in Hungary, ambulance spokesperson Pal Gyorfi was quoted as saying by the national news agency MTI.
The demand for ambulances was up 20 per cent on a usual day with 3,000 calls, Gyorfi said in a statement.
Hungarian authorities sent an icebreaker onto the Danube river, after ice tripped ships on the continent’s second-longest river.
A state of emergency has been declared in some parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Al Jazeera’s Dalija Hasan-begovic reported from Sarajevo.
Record highs have been set in the use of electricity and gas as Bosnians struggle to stay warm, Hasan-begovic added.
“They’re forecasting strong winds and sub-freezing temperatures [across Bosnia], which is making cleaning the snow very difficult,” she said.
Hazardous black ice covered streets in Rome on Sunday as snowed-in residents warned of food shortages and the national rail operator faced lawsuits after hundreds of people were trapped in trains.
Three more people died on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 10. Large areas of the Lazio and Umbria regions had intermittent or no electricity, water and heating. Taxis and buses struggled without snow chains and basic foodstuffs in shops were running out in some areas.
“We’ve been abandoned to ourselves, isolated from the world.“
– Riccardo Santucci, Italian citizen
Riccardo Santucci from Frosinone told La Repubblica newspaper: “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.”
The death toll in France has risen to four, after a 12-year-old boy died of hypothermia on Saturday after falling into a frozen pond in eastern France and a homeless person was found dead in the northeast.
Airline services from Britain and France were hit as the chilling weather moved west, prompting severe weather warnings to be issued across much of both countries.
London’s Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, said it would run just 70 per cent of normal services on Sunday as more than 15cm of snow fell in parts of England overnight and temperatures dropped to almost -10 Celsius.
London’s Gatwick Airport said it had received 8cm of snow overnight, but it had remained open and would be running all scheduled flights. Many of Britain’s other airports were forced to shut runways overnight and said there could be further disruption on Sunday.