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Snow chaos paralyses eastern Europe

Bosnia's government has declared a state of emergency after the capital Sarajevo was paralysed by snow, while in Rome residents saw the Italian capital's biggest snowfall in 26 years, which shut down the Colosseum.

The week-long cold snap - the worst in decades in eastern Europe - has killed at least 176, many of them homeless people, especially in countries such as Ukraine.

In Rome, unusually heavy snow capped the dome of St Peter's Basilica and the Roman Forum's ancient arches. It toppled trees, sending some crashing on to empty parked cars. Up to 8in of snow had fallen in some neighbourhoods, making buses and taxis scarce and stranding some motorists for hours.

About 4,000 government-issued shovels were handed out in several main piazzas to Romans trying to clear their streets before a forecast night-time freeze.

In Sarajevo, more than 3ft of snow fell on Saturday, closing roads and public transport. Some neighbourhoods reported water shortages and residents struggled to reach the shops to stock up on food. Several people said they witnessed fist fights over loaves of bread.

However the crisis also produced camaraderie. In one area of central Sarajevo, men shovelling the deep snow were being given tea, coffee and hamburgers and meatballs barbecued by local women. One elderly man who did not know how to help out stood at an open window of his house playing his clarinet.

Schools have been closed in Bosnia for days because of the tough winter weather and many travellers have been trapped on the country's roads since Friday night. "This is unbelievable. I can't remember snow like this in the past 30 years, said Mirsada Mitrovic, of Sarajevo.

The state of emergency order said all schools must remain closed in Sarajevo, women and children should stay at home, and men should only report to work if their jobs were essential. It also ordered men who owned shovels or vehicles big enough to plough snow to help the city clear the streets, especially ones leading to hospitals.

Officials in Serbia said around 60,000 people remained cut off by the snow. Seven people have died so far and one is missing, while 23 people had been rescued in the past 24 hours.

In Croatia, authorities in a strip along the Adriatic coast declared emergency measures and urged the army's help in clearing up a rare snowfall. Three people have died in the freeze.


From Belfast Telegraph