Ten people have died in Ukraine as icy storms of snow and rain swept in from the Black Sea, crippling infrastructure, blocking roads and cutting power, the country’s interior minister said.
The record-breaking storm has lashed swathes of the country since Sunday, leaving thousands of settlements in the affected region without power and taxing an already overworked energy grid and rescue service overextended by Russia’s nearly two-year invasion.
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“As a result of worsening weather conditions, 10 people died in Odesa, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kyiv regions,” Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on the Telegram app on Tuesday.
“Twenty-three people were injured, including two children.”
A total of 411 settlements in 11 regions had lost power, and more than 1,500 vehicles had to be rescued, Klymenko said.
Emergency responders carried out rescues and evacuations of residents swept off roads and trapped by snow.
Southern Ukraine was the worst affected, particularly the Black Sea region of Odesa. Cars and buses slid off frozen roads into fields and police battled high winds to tow the vehicles out.
Oleh Kiper, the governor of the Odesa region where five people died due to the weather, said nearly 2,500 people had been rescued by emergency services after becoming trapped by the snow.
“849 vehicles have been towed out, including 24 buses and 17 ambulances,” Kiper wrote on Telegram, adding that over 300 settlements in his region were without power.
The extreme weather struck as tens of thousands of troops man front-line positions in the 21-month-old war with Russia amid fears Moscow could attack the power grid with air strikes this winter.
The storm system overran also nearby regions. In Russian-annexed Crimea and southern Russia, at least three people were reported to have died.
Russia’s Ministry of Energy said “about 1.9 million people” were affected by power cuts in the southern Russian regions of Dagestan, Krasnodar and Rostov as well as the occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhia and Crimea.