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Europe big freeze traps thousands

Some 11,000 villagers have been trapped by heavy snow and blizzards as the death toll from Eastern Europe's cold spell rose to 113.

The stranded people live in homes in remote mountainous areas of Serbia that cannot be reached over icy, snow-clogged roads.

The death toll climbed with reports of 20 more deaths in Ukraine, nine more in Poland and one more in Serbia. Officials were looking for ways to protect mostly homeless victims from the lethal deep freeze.

Emergency crews in Ukraine and Poland were working overtime as temperatures sank to minus 32.5C (minus 26.5F).

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

The Polish government said the victims were mostly homeless people under the influence of alcohol who were seeking shelter in unheated buildings. Officials appealed to the public to quickly help anyone they saw in need.

In Ukraine, 63 people have died from the cold in the last week. Nearly 950 others were treated in hospital for 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 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 metres (16 1/2 feet) high in some areas, you can only see rooftops," said Dr Milorad Dramacanin, who participated in the helicopter evacuations.

Two helicopters 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."


From Belfast Telegraph