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‘Beast from the East’ sends Arctic blast across Europe

2 killed as snow, sub-zero temperatures paralyze Europe

SCARBOROUGH: A couple walk their dog on the beach as heavy snow falls in the sea side resort of Scarborough in North Yorkshire. A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe yesterday, causing headaches for travelers and leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches. —AFP

PARIS: A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe yesterday, causing headaches for travelers and leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches. The icy weather is in stark contrast to conditions in the Arctic itself, which is experiencing an “off-the-charts” heatwave this week, according to the European Geosciences Institute. Meteorologists have documented temperatures above freezing in some parts of the Arctic, causing astonishment among many scientists.

But to the south swathes of Europe were shivering under temperatures well below freezing, claiming at least 10 lives across the continent in a snap dubbed “the Beast from the East” by British tabloids. At least five deaths were reported in Poland alone on Monday as the mercury dropped to minus 16 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) overnight in Warsaw. That brought the number of Polish deaths from freezing to 53 since November 1, and temperatures are expected to remain below minus 12 Celsius across the country yesterday, with the cold accentuated by a biting wind.

In Lithuania, temperatures dropped to as low as minus 26 degrees Celsius overnight, and one suspected death of a man from freezing was reported in the capital Vilnius. In Britain, authorities warned of five to 10 centimeters of snow yesterday and the likelihood of travel delays on roads, rail networks and at airports, while electricity and even mobile phone service may be cut in some areas. On Monday, British Airways cancelled more than 60 short-haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow airport.

Stalactite near miss
Some of the iciest conditions were reported in Italy, where many schools and daycare centers were closed, to the consternation of parents already preparing for closures next week linked to this weekend’s general election. Public anger was also growing over the disruptions to rail services across the country, as travelers learned that many track switches did not have defrosting equipment, meaning they had to be dug out by hand.In Naples, the airport was closed yesterday and bus services in the city halted because of ice.

And a driver in Turin got a fright when a stalactite broke off from an overhead bridge and shattered his windshield-though he managed to keep control of his vehicle. One of the coldest points overnight was at Glattalp in Switzerland, where the temperature fell to -38 Celsius-extreme even for the high-altitude area (1,850 meters), according to the ATS news agency. In France, which has remained frigid but dry during the cold snap, forecasters warned of heavy snow across much of the country starting Wednesday though spring-like temperatures would soon follow.

Yesterday, residents of Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica woke up to some 15 centimeters of snow on the beach, something not seen since 1986. At least three people have died during the cold snap in France. Across the continent, authorities have been opening emergency shelters and increasing relief efforts for the homeless. The mayor of Etterbeek in Belgium said those sleeping rough would be forcibly detained if they refused to go to shelters, citing the “major risk” from exposure to the cold. In Berlin, rising fears for homeless people led officials to open an additional 100 beds, with the city’s shelters, now with a total of 1,200 beds, more than 90 percent full, RBB public radio reported.

Two dead in Romania
Two people were found dead in Romania as snow and sub-zero temperatures across much of Europe saw flights cancelled, road and rail transport disrupted and schools closed yesterday. A Siberian weather system forecasters have called the “beast from the east” brought the coldest temperatures for years to many regions. The freeze was expected to continue for much of the week.

In southern Romania, an 83-year-old woman from Adancata was found collapsed in the snow and died on the way to hospital, the Institute for Emergency Situations (ISU) said. A 65-year-old man was found dead late on Monday in the eastern county of Suceava, an official told state news agency Agerpres. Parts of a motorway linking the capital Bucharest to Constanta and dozens of other roads were closed. More than 80 trains and 15 flights were cancelled, Romanian police said, and Romania’s Black Sea ports were closed.

Record snowfall of 182 cm paralyzed the northern Croatian town of Delnice and rescue services took several hours to evacuate residents in the nearby village of Mrzle Vodice. Temperatures hit a low of -20 degrees Celsius in Zavizan on the Velebit mountain. Schools were closed in Bucharest and ten Romanian counties as well as across western and central Croatia. The roofs of dozens of houses collapsed under the weight of snow in the Unsko-Sanski canton in northwestern Bosnia. State-run RTCG TV reported that Montenegro’s main Golubovci airport was closed for several hours overnight. A rare snowstorm in Rome on Monday prompted Italian authorities to call in the army to help clear the streets.- Agencies

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