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Europe big freeze death toll rises

Russia and Ukraine have taken extra precautions to protect the homeless from the big freeze after at least 175 people froze to death on the streets of Europe during a brutal cold snap.

As the death toll from the past week rose to at least 175 on Friday, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the creation of facilities nationwide to feed and provide medical assistance to the homeless.

Russia has not reported casualty figures from the cold snap, which has gripped a large swath of the continent from Russia to Serbia and reached as far west as the Netherlands.

But Russian Deputy Health Minister Maxim Topilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency as saying that at least 64 people died from the cold in all of January.

With tens of thousands of protesters expected on the streets of Moscow on Saturday, doctors advised those taking part in the demonstrations to protect themselves from the cold as their grandmothers used to do: by wearing felt boots and smearing their faces with goose or pig fat.

Protesters also were encouraged to eat a big breakfast, preferably including meat, and refrain from drinking alcohol. While most will be protesting against Vladimir Putin's government, others will attend a separate pro-Putin rally.

In Ukraine, the hardest hit country, health officials have told hospitals to stop discharging the hundreds of homeless patients after they are treated for hypothermia and frostbite. The goal is to prevent them from dying once they are released into temperatures as low as minus 32C (minus 26F).

Authorities also have set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters. Thirty-eight more fatalities were reported from frostbite and hypothermia in Ukraine on Friday, raising the nation's death toll to 101. Emergency officials have said many of the victims were homeless.

Mykola Blyznyuk of the Health Ministry told the Kiev Post newspaper that many of the victims of hypothermia had broken their legs in falls and spent a long time on the ground in freezing temperatures while waiting for help to arrive.

Of the Ukrainians who have died since the cold weather hit on January 27, some 64 were found frozen on the streets, 11 died in hospitals and 26 in their homes, said emergency officials.


From Belfast Telegraph