Winter death toll rises as even Africa shivers
SOFIA: The toll from Europe’s winter freeze has pushed past 360 after snow- and rain-swollen rivers burst a Bulgarian dam and killed at least eight, while more homeless people perished on frigid city streets.
Four elderly people drowned in their homes in the south-eastern Bulgarian village of Biser after a nearby dam wall broke, submerging the whole village under 2½ metres of icy water, the interior ministry said.
Another four people died when their cars were swept from bridges into raging rivers in the same region.
”People are in panic,” the region’s mayor, Mihail Liskov, said as a massive rescue effort was under way. ”Ninety per cent of the village is under water.”
Two other dams were brimming with water and heavy rains triggered a landslide that derailed a train near the Turkish border.
Temperatures touched new lows in parts of Europe, including Switzerland, which reported the mercury dipping to minus 35.1 in the eastern Graubuenden canton, and the Czech Republic, where the town of Kvilda recorded a winter low of minus 39.4.
As has been the case throughout the 10-day cold snap, the homeless have suffered most. Frozen victims have been found in abandoned and unheated homes, fire escapes or makeshift shelters on streets.
In a bid to save lives, Poland’s homeless shelters have dropped a ban on accepting drunks.
Across the continent, authorities have reported at least 368 weather-related deaths. In Lithuania, where the temperature has dipped to minus 31, the deaths of 12 more people at the weekend brought the toll to 23.
In Italy, schools were closed until yesterday in Rome as authorities battled to clean up the city after a rare snowstorm. And Venice’s canals were frozen over in parts. Other regions including Tuscany and Umbria were bracing for fresh snow. Crews were also struggling to restore power to about 60,000 homes across Italy.
In France, electricity consumption hit a record amid the cold.
In Bosnia, residents of dozens of hamlets were trapped by continued heavy snowfall, mostly in the eastern region around Srebrenica and Sokolac.
”The snow has reached over 1.5 metres, it is still snowing and we have already been blocked for over a month,” said Dzevad Muminovic, who lives in the tiny village of Krusev Do.
The bitter cold has even crossed into north Africa, where as many as 19 people were killed on Algeria’s snow-slicked roads or in other weather-related accidents. Snow also fell in southern Tunisia for the first time in about 40 years.