(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe yesterday, forcing airports to cancel or delay flights around the continent, as a deep freeze gripped countries from the far north to the Mediterranean beaches in the south.
The snowstorms, unusual for much of Europe at this time of year, left roads blocked, thousands of drivers stranded and schools shut.
The death toll Europe-wide continued to climb to more than 50, as another three people perished in Poland, taking the number of victims there to 21, most of them rough sleepers.
There have also been six deaths in the Czech Republic in recent days, five in Lithuania, four each in France and Slovakia, three in Spain, two each in Italy, Serbia, Romania and Slovenia, and one each in Britain and the Netherlands.
One of the Spanish victims was a 39-year-old homeless man who had been sleeping in an abandoned truck.
'Those most at risk of cold-related illness include elderly people, children, and people who have chronic diseases or physical or mental limitations, the World Health Organisation said in a statement.
The Siberian cold front — dubbed the 'Beast from the East in Britain, 'Siberian bear by the Dutch and the 'snow cannon by Swedes — yesterday forced Geneva airport to close for several hours in the morning, with temperatures plunging in Switzerland to nearly minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 38 Fahrenheit) at higher altitudes.
Several flights to Malaga in southern Spain were diverted because of strong winds. Some people enjoyed the cold, with families taking children and pets out to play.
But many who took out their ice skates discovered the waters were not frozen enough.
A 74-year-old man who fell through the ice on a pond near Bruges remained in hospital in critical condition yesterday, a Belgian TV channel reported.
The mercury also dropped below freezing across southern Europe. Snowfall in northern Italy forced the cancellation of 50% of regional trains, while in the city of Naples, schools were shut. In normally balmy southern France, beaches in Nice were blanketed in a thick layer of snow.
Near the city of Montpellier, around 2,000 drivers were stranded on a motorway, causing anger from those sitting behind the wheel for hours on end.
'The motorway looks like a cemetery of trucks and cars, tweeted Anthony Jammot.
In Paris, which yesterday awoke to a blanket of snow, authorities continued operating emergency shelters for the city's roughly 3,000 homeless.
Demanding more efforts to keep people off the streets, around 30 local officials spent the night near the city's Gare d'Austerlitz train station as temperatures dipped below zero.
In Germany, the national homeless association urged shelters to open during the day and not just at night.
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