Death Toll From Europe's Deep Freeze Rises To 112


Salon Staff
February 2, 2012 4:00PM (UTC)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Europe's death toll from a week of frigid weather rose to 112 Thursday as officials scrambled to figure out how to protect mostly homeless victims from the deep freeze that is killing them.

Officials reported 20 more deaths from the cold in Ukraine on Thursday and nine more in Poland. Emergency crews were working overtime across the region as temperatures sank to minus 32.5 C (minus 26.5 F).

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Parts of the Black Sea froze near the Romanian coastline and the rare snow fell on Croatian islands in the Adriatic Sea. In Bulgaria, 16 towns recorded their lowest temperatures since records started 100 years ago.

Polish government spokeswoman Malgorzata Wozniak said her country's victims were mostly homeless people under the influence of alcohol who were seeking shelter in unheated buildings. Officials appealed to the public Thursday to quickly help anyone they saw in need.

In Ukraine, a shocking 63 people have died from the cold in the last week. Nearly 950 others were hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite and over 2,000 heated tents have been set up with hot food for the homeless.

To the south, helicopters evacuated dozens of people from snow-blocked villages in Serbia and Bosnia this week and airlifted in food and medicine.

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 meters (16 1/2 feet) high in some areas, you can only see rooftops," said Dr. Milorad Dramacanin, who participated in the helicopter evacuations.

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Two helicopters on Wednesday rescued people and resupplied remote villages in northern Bosnia.

"We are trying to get through to several small villages, with each just a few elderly residents," said Bosnian rescue official Milimir Doder. "All together some 200-300 people are cut off. We are supplying them for the second day with food and medication."

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In the small Bosnian hamlet of Han Kran on Mt. Romanija, villagers waited for a helicopter at a flat spot that they had cleared of snow.

"We are barely coping. I live on my own — it is a real struggle," said Radenka Jeftovic, an elderly woman wrapped in woolen scarfs and hugging a food package she received.

Goran Milat, a younger resident, complained that "the minuses are killing us."

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"We are thankful for this help," he said. "But the snow did what it did and we are blocked here until spring."

Some Bosnian villages have had no electricity for days and crews were working around-the-clock trying to fix power lines.

Schools, nurseries and colleges across the region shut down, including one school in eastern Hungary that said it could not afford the high heating bills. The airport in Montenegro's capital of Podgorica shut down late Wednesday because of heavy snowfall.

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Maria Danilova from Ukraine, Alison Mutler from Romania, Aida Cerkez from Bosnia, Monika Scislowska from Poland, Pablo Gorondi from Hungary, Veselin Toskhov from Bulgaria and Jovana Gec from Serbia contributed to this report.


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