Death toll from European cold reaches 280

Posted Feb. 05, 2012, at 8:24 p.m.

BELGRADE, Serbia — Subzero cold combined with snowstorms continued to claim lives across Europe, bringing the death toll to more than 280 by Sunday — most of the victims were in Ukraine, where 30 more people died over the weekend.

The severe weather, with the temperature in Ukraine often falling to 30 degrees below zero, has killed at least 131 people there since the beginning of winter, most of them homeless.

More than 1,800 people in the former Soviet republic have needed hospitalization this winter because of exposure, and 75,000 sought assistance in the 3,000 shelters providing warm food and beverages.

In Poland, eight more people froze to death, bringing the toll to 53. In addition, there were at least six fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty heating systems.

In the Baltic republic of Lithuania, the cold claimed three more lives.

Though the temperature was somewhat more moderate in the Balkans, in Romania six people froze over the weekend, 34 in total during the cold snap.

In France, a woman with Alzheimer’s disease left a Toulouse home for the elderly in her pajamas and was found dead in a park. Two homeless people died of exposure.

In the Alps, German meteorologists recorded 29 degrees below zero in the skiing resort of Oberstdorf and a record low for the financial capital Frankfurt of 15 below zerp.

Multiple deaths have been reported in recent days in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. A snowstorm shut down much of the former Yugoslavia.

In Serbia, nine people died: three psychiatric patients who wandered out inadequately dressed, three homeless people and three elderly villagers who perished while trying to leave their homes on errands.

Another person reported missing six days ago is presumed dead.

Serbia was struggling to restore its infrastucture. A nationwide state of emergency is being considered and schools were canceled through the next week to reduce traffic jams and ease the strained power grid.

The storm deposited up to 78 inches of snow in parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. At least three casualties were reported in Croatia from the weather on Saturday and Sunday and one in Montenegro, where a Russian man was found dead beside a road.

In Berane, a town in the mountains, the roof of a sport gymnasium collapsed under the weight of the snow, but without any reported injuries.

Roofs collapsing under the snow killed two people in separate incidents in Italy. A homeless man from Ukraine was found frozen near Rome.

Even North Africa has been affected by the chill, with children who had never seen snow playing snowball fights in high-lying districts of the Algerian capital Algiers. Roads to several villages in the mountainous Kabylia region near the coast were cut by snow.

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