At least 160 dead as cold snap grips Europe

Courtesy of Los Angeles Times

A cold snap kept Europe in its icy grip Thursday, pushing the death toll to 160 as countries from Italy to Ukraine struggled to cope with temperatures that plunged to record lows in some places.

Nine more people died in Poland overnight as temperatures hit 25.6 below zero Fahrenheit (-32 Celsius) in the southwest, bringing the overall toll to 29 since the deep freeze began last week, national police said.

In Ukraine, tens of thousands of people have headed to shelters trying to escape the freeze that the emergencies ministry said has now killed 63 people.

Most of them literally froze to death on the street, with only a handful making it to the hospital before succumbing to hypothermia, the ministry said.

Shivering and hungry, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have sought help in the more than 2,000 temporary shelters set up by the authorities to help the poor survive the fearsome spell of cold weather.

Temperatures fell to 27 below zero Fahrenheit (-33 Celsius) in the Carpathians and 17 below zero Fahrenheit (-27 Celsius) in the capital Kiev.

In Romania, eight people died overnight because of the cold, bringing the overall toll to 22, the health ministry said. Schools remained closed in some parts of the country as temperatures reached 24 below zero Fahrenheit (-31 Celsius).

In Bulgaria, where the mercury dipped to lows not seen in a century, at least 10 people have died, according to media. Authorities have not released official figures.

In Latvia, 10 people have died around the capital Riga alone, with no figures available for the rest of the country. And In neighboring Lithuania a 55-year-old homeless man found in the ruins of an abandoned house in Klaipeda became the ninth victim of the chill.

In Italy, hundreds of people were trapped overnight on trains as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the center and north caused widespread chaos on roads, railways and at airports. The cold has so far killed an infant in Sicily and a 76-year-old in Parma during what forecasters say is the coldest weather in Italy in 27 years.

In France, 41 of the 101 regions were on alert for snow or "deep cold," mainly in the east. In Paris, the army set aside nearly 600 places in barracks and other military buildings to shelter the homeless from the cold.

In Austria, an 83-year-old woman was found frozen to death in the woods after apparently slipping on her daily walk, becoming the country's second victim of the cold snap, officials said.

In Serbia, the cold has killed seven people and trapped some 11,500 others, mostly in remote mountain villages inaccessible by road.

The freeze has also killed people each in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Greece.

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