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Death count rises as big freeze shuts down eastern Europe

February 2, 2012


Fisherman's tents on the Moscow River in Moscow, Russia. The death toll from a severe cold spell in Eastern Europe has risen to 79.Frozen fish … fishermen’s tents on the Moscow River, where the temperature has fallen to minus 21 degrees as eastern Europe suffers a severe cold spell. Photo: AP

BELGRADE: Rescue helicopters have evacuated dozens of people from snow-blocked villages in Serbia and Bosnia and airlifted in emergency food and medicine as a severe cold spell kept eastern Europe in its icy grip.

The death toll from the cold rose to 83 on Wednesday and emergency crews worked overtime as temperatures sank to minus 32.5 degrees in some areas. Parts of the Black Sea froze near the Romanian coastline and rare snow fell on Croatian islands in the Adriatic Sea. In Bulgaria, 16 towns recorded their lowest temperatures since records started 100 years ago as four more people were reported dead from hypothermia. In Russia, temperatures fell to minus 21 in Moscow.

In central Serbia, choppers pulled out 12 people, including nine who went to a funeral but then could not get back over icy, snow-choked roads. Two more people froze to death in the snow and two others are missing, bringing that nation’s death toll to five.

”The situation is dramatic. The snow is up to five metres high in some areas, you can only see rooftops,” said Milorad Dramacanin, a doctor who participated in the helicopter evacuations. One of the evacuees was an elderly woman who had fallen into a coma. She survived after being airlifted to a hospital.

Two helicopters were also used on Wednesday to rescue people and supply remote villages in northern Bosnia. Some Bosnian villages have had no electricity for days and crews were working around the clock trying to fix power lines.

Ukraine reported 43 deaths, mostly of homeless people. The country’s emergency situations ministry said 28 people had been found dead on the streets, eight died in hospitals and seven in their homes. More than 720 others were hospitalised with hypothermia and frostbite.

In Romania, temperatures fell to minus 32.5, and six homeless people died in the past 24 hours of hypothermia, the health ministry reported. Hundreds of other people were sent to shelters to protect them from the extreme cold. Five people died of hypothermia in the last day in Poland, bringing its toll up to 20 since Friday.

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