Dozens Die Across Eastern Europe, In Severe Winter Weather

By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From CNN, Posted by Ralph Hipp

EASTERN EUROPE, RUSSIA (CNN) -- Winter weather battered Europe Monday, with snow closing roads in Romania, where at least 39 people have died so far due to the cold snap.

Traffic was in chaos in the capital Bucharest and possible blizzards are forecast for half the country over the next three days. Five people died in the 24 hours up to Monday morning, Romanian health officials announced, and dozens are suffering from hypothermia.

Ukraine, where at least 122 people have died, was due for high temperatures well below freezing Monday, with the mercury unlikely to rise above 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) in the capital Kiev at any time in the next week.

At least 64 people have died due to the cold in Russia, the government said. Snow has fallen in Spain, and traffic in Brussels, Belgium, was snarled by bad weather.

But London's Heathrow Airport, one of the world's busiest international transport hubs, said it was operating a normal schedule Monday after canceling half of its flights Sunday following about three inches of snow.

Heavy snow left several Italian villages paralyzed and without power over the weekend as winter weather and cold temperatures spread across Europe, the mayor of one village said.

Many of the 32 villages in the Aniene Valley, near Rome, lost electricity on Friday when an electric pylon fell because of the snow, said Piero Moscardini, mayor of Vallinfreda.

The valley, home to about 50,000 people, has received some 100 cm (39 inches) of snow, Moscardini said.

"It's the worst snow since 1956," he said. "The situation is tragic. We need the Army to save us."

Ambulances cannot traverse the roads, he said, and some villagers cannot reach their stables to feed livestock. In Romania, more than 30 cities and villages are isolated, authorities said, and power outages were reported in 200 cities and villages.

More than 3,000 employees belonging to the interior ministry were involved in rescue operations, as hundreds sought refuge in temporary shelters and hundreds more were hospitalized because of hypothermia.

In Poland, TVN Poland said Sunday that 53 people have died. Most of the victims are homeless, according to the report. Eastern Europe will have a much rougher ride, with temperatures in Moscow plunging far below freezing and snow sweeping into the continent from the southeast. Rome was blanketed in a rare snowfall Saturday.

Landmarks such as Rome's Colosseum were dusted with snow for the first time since 1985. The rare precipitation caused traffic jams and left some people stranded. By Sunday, traffic was clearing, a taxi driver said, and temperatures were rising.

However, Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno was being criticized for the city's handling of the weather. Drivers in both London and Rome will need to worry about ice as temperatures rise slightly, then fall again to below freezing, CNN meteorologist Tom Sater said Sunday.

Sarajevo, Bosnia, canceled school for a week as the Balkan city was hit by the biggest snowfall since 1999. Snowdrifts that were 110 centimeters (43 inches) high snarled the center of the city, with even more snow in the hills around it. The news was not all bad, said Amina Sofic, a 20-year-old medical student.

"People in Sarajevo like to play in the snow, to ski or board because we have lots of hills. And now that there is no traffic; it's pretty fun to go on sleds (or) go walking," said Sofic, a CNN iReporter.

Ukraine appears to be the worst affected so far, with Poland, Romania, Serbia and Belarus also suffering much more severe winter conditions than usual.

More than 1,500 people have been hospitalized in Ukraine, in addition to the 122 dead, the state-run news agency Ukrinform reported Saturday, citing government ministries.

The first reports of heavy snow came from Romania on January 26. Now, although temperatures are becoming more moderate, the snowfall will be very heavy, meteorologists say.

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