Glacial conditions cause death and disruption in Europe

Access to the comments Comments
By Alasdair Sandford
Glacial conditions cause death and disruption in Europe

Heavy snow storms and glacial weather across a large area of Europe have brought unusual landscapes to some Mediterranean countries and caused disruption, hardship and casualties.

If it snows in Istanbul, life stops

Istanbul resident

In Italy at least seven people – five of them homeless – were reported to have died in a 48-hour period.

The snow has hit some areas already badly damaged by last year’s earthquakes, with temperatures plunging to minus 10 degrees Celsius.

In the south, Brindisi and Bari airports were closed on Saturday morning. Several ferry links were also cut off the southern Italian coast. More snow was forecast over the rest of the weekend.

Further north the Vatican has not been immune. The fountains of St Peter’s Square were turned into frozen blocks of ice – providing at least some pretty pictures for tourists.

In Turkey heavy snow blocked hundreds of roads in the east.

Istanbul woke to a whiteout after heavy snowfall overnight. Hundreds of flights in and out of the city’s airports were cancelled on Friday and Saturday. More snow is expected in the coming days.

“For sure snow is nice but if it snows in Istanbul, life stops. The roads are bad, especially the small roads where traffic is really bad and cars can’t drive,” said one woman in Turkey’s largest city.

In Poland where homeless shelters are full, seven people died of hypothermia during the coldest night of the winter so far, as temperatures dropped to nearly 30 below zero. Saturday night was also predicted to remain very cold.

Elsewhere in eastern Europe two Iraqi migrants were found frozen to death in Bulgaria on Friday. The body of a 20-year-old Afghan who had crossed from Turkey was discovered in northern Greece last Tuesday. With tens of thousands of Syrian refugees on its territory, the country has moved many to heated shelters.

The countries of the Balkans are also suffering from extremely low temperatures, especially in the mountainous regions of Bosnia and in southern and eastern Serbia. Meanwhile Moscow is experiencing its coldest Orthodox Christmas for 120 years.

At the origin of the freezing conditions is air from the Arctic sweeping south from Scandinavia into central Europe. The rest of the weekend is expected to remain cold.