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Europe fights a big freeze while Greece enjoys spring-like conditions

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By Euronews with AP
Firefighters break large icicles from the gutter of a house in the city centre of Erfurt, Germany, Thursday, Feb.11, 2021.
Firefighters break large icicles from the gutter of a house in the city centre of Erfurt, Germany, Thursday, Feb.11, 2021.   -   Copyright  Martin Schutt/dpa via AP
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Temperatures across northern Europe have dipped by as much as 10°C below average with NGOs warning the deep freeze could be deadly for homeless people.

The heavy snow, rain and freezing conditions ushered in by Storm Darcy have led to severe travel disruptions and been the cause of multiple deaths.

Germany

Four people were found frozen to death in Germany over the past few days, according to homeless aid group BAGW.

Early on Friday, a homeless woman with a newborn baby were taken to hospital to warm up after being found by police on a ventilation grate outside a subway station in the southern city of Nuremberg.

At least 28 people were also injured earlier his week as treacherous road conditions have led to hundreds of vehicle crashes. Police in southwestern Germany said a 49-year-old man was crushed to death Thursday when the tractor he was driving slid and toppled over on an icy field.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, skating fans flocked to the ice Friday, causing a headache for authorities trying to enforce social distancing measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The day before, three workers in a boat hacked away at ice Thursday to create a watery barrier around the Dutch prime minister's office and ensure skaters couldn't reach it.

Sanitary measures will also prevent a legendary Dutch ice-skating race over frozen canals and lakes in the northern Friesland province from going ahead.

The organisers confirmed this week that the 11 Cities Tour, which attracts 25,000 participants and up to 1.5 million spectators, will not happen this winter due to the current Dutch coronavirus lockdown.

UK

In the night from Wednesday to Thursday, Britain experienced its coldest night since 1995 with -22.9°C recorded in Braemar, northeast Scotland. It was also the coldest February night since 1955, according to the Met Office

Most of Britain has experienced days of sub-zero temperatures and snowfall in the wake of winter Storm Darcy. The cold snap froze the famous fountains in London’s Trafalgar Square and forced the temporary closure of some UK coronavirus vaccination sites.

Rail operator Network Rail used a special train on Thursday to dislodge icicles up to 1.5 m long from tunnels in the north of England.

Special winter trains with hot air blowers, steam jets, anti-freeze equipment, brushes, scrapers and snowploughs to clear snow and ice from the tracks have also been operating as have empty night trains, to keep the tracks clear overnight, Network Rail said. It nonetheless urged people to avoid leaving their homes.

France

In western France, freezing rain turned roads into chutes of treacherous ice. Authorities in Brittany said smaller roads that tie together towns and villages in the largely rural region were unusable. They urged people to stay home. Large trucks were banned from moving around.

Cold weather and ice alerts which had until now primarily been put over northern and western parts of the country are now localised over eastern and central France with up to 15 cm of snow expected over the Rhone-Alpes region on Friday.

Météo France said that the mercury had dropped to -16.2°C on Friday morning in Bale-Mulhouse and -11.4°C in Strasbourg.

The cold snap comes just after heavy rain caused floods in large swathes of the south-west.

Norway

In Norway, police deported a truck driver for driving without snow chains near a city in the Arctic Circle. The foreign national was stopped twice by police within one hour earlier this week and ordered to put snow chains — a legal requirement for heavy vehicles from mid-November until the end of March.

The driver was escorted out of the country, slapped with a ban on entering or driving in the Scandinavian country for two years and with a fine of 11,000 Norwegian kroner (€1,072).

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute forecast that up to 40 cm of snow will fall over the weekend in the northern Nord-Trondelag region. The south meanwhile, is to enjoy some sunny weather.

Greece

Southern Europe has meanwhile been enjoying milder weather than usual for this time of year.

Greece has been enjoying spring-like weather with temperatures in the 20°C range. But the southern nation is set to join the rest of Europe in the deep freeze in the coming days, with snow possible even in the capital, Athens.