Europe severe weather: Death toll rises amid freeze

BBC News:  

The death toll from severe weather has risen across Europe, with at least 23 casualties in Poland alone amid sub-zero temperatures, officials say.

Shelters have been opened as the plight of rough sleepers is a major concern. Some 59 people have died across the continent, AFP news agency reports.

Meanwhile most transport and flights have been suspended in Ireland where thousands were left without power.

Several countries continued to face disruption caused by snow and ice.

The unusually cold spell brought by a Siberian weather system was being felt as far south as the Mediterranean.

Where are the problems?

The system has been given various nicknames – in the UK it is “the Beast from the East”, while the Dutch call it the “Siberian bear” and Swedes the “snow cannon”.

It met Storm Emma on Thursday, causing blizzards and strong winds in parts of England, Wales and Ireland.

Flights in and out of Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland were suspended until Saturday at the earliest. All schools in the country were shut and people were urged not to drive.

Some rail services operated by Eurostar between London, Paris and Brussels were axed.

The airport in the Swiss city of Geneva was also temporarily shut, but has since reopened.

In parts of central Italy, ice forced the closure of several roads and railways.

Where have the deaths been?

In Poland, most of the victims were rough sleepers.

The deaths are partially attributed to a combination of the severe cold and alcohol consumption by homeless people, who drink hoping to warm up, the BBC’s Warsaw correspondent Adam Easton reports.

When the night time temperature is -15C (5F), as it has been all week in the Polish capital, this is a deadly combination, our correspondent adds.

Over the past week, the cold weather has killed seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four in France and at least three in Spain, according to AFP.

Italy, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia have all counted two deaths each, while one person has died in Britain. The Netherlands and Sweden each also recorded one weather-related death.

n Spain, one of the three victims was a homeless man who had been sleeping in an abandoned truck.

What is the forecast?

The conditions have already improved in some parts of Europe, and the temperatures are expected to rise over the next couple of days.

But the cold weather is likely to continue in parts of the UK and Ireland.

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