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Heavy snowfall and extreme cold sweeps over Europe

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A man shovels his car free of snow after days of snowfall in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.
A man shovels his car free of snow after days of snowfall in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021.   -   Copyright  Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP
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Extreme cold and heavy snowfall across large swathes of Europe have led to travel disruptions and multiple deaths.

Temperatures in some areas of Poland dropped to -28°C overnight — the coldest in 11 years.

The cold caused tracks at two Warsaw rail stations to crack creating delays on Monday. It also led to a spike in pollution due to an increase in burning coal for heat. In the capital, officials urged people to stay indoors to avoid the smog.

On Monday afternoon, temperatures of -14°C and lower were being recorded northeastern parts of the country.

The Czech Republic recorded its coldest temperature of the year so far with the mercury dropping to below -20°C in many places during the night.

The lowest temperature of -27°C was observed in Orlicke Zahori, a mountainous village 160 kilometres east of Prague and near the Polish border, according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

Northern Norway is gearing itself up for temperatures of -30°C.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, the country's meteorological agency urged "all knitting lovers" in the south, which experienced such conditions last week, "to send woollen clothes to their friends in the north".

Much further south, in Albania, temperatures reached -13°C in Peshkopi, 110 kilometres east of the capital Tirana. The freezing conditions have made driving dangerous and prevented firefighters in Pogradec from arriving at a home fire in time to save a man's life.

The man's brother, Nikolin Xhukellari, told the Balkanweb online portal that he managed to get his two children and wife out of the building but his brother, who was on the second floor, could not escape.

A man also lost his life in Germany because of the weather conditions after his car shot over a mound of snow.

A skier in Switzerland died on Sunday after being buried by an avalanche. Officials said that one man was able to free himself from the snow and assist another, but that the third man was only found by rescue teams and taken to hospital in a critical condition. He later died.

One person also died on Saturday in the French Alps because of an avalanche while several others survived after being buried under snow, authorities said.

The prefecture said the four avalanches registered that day were due to heavy snowfall which had "made the snowpack very unstable".

Météo France said that the country's average temperature during the first fortnight of the year was 3.09°C — nearly 2°C below average for the month of January.

Gaetan Heymes, a forecaster for the French meteorological agency, said however that the mild weather expected for the rest of the month "could be enough to cancel the cold anomaly of the first fortnight".