Death toll rises as big freeze grips Europe

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Ireland shutdown as Europe's severe weather continues

  • 2 March 2018
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Media captionMotorists and pedestrians in Ukraine struggle with snow after heavy falls

Severe weather continues to bring chaos to large parts of Europe, where at least 59 people have died amid sub-zero temperatures.

Most transport and flights have been suspended in Ireland where strong winds brought by a storm left some 24,000 homes and businesses without power.

Several other countries have faced disruptions caused by snow and ice.

The death toll rose to 23 in Poland, where the plight of rough sleepers is a major concern.

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.

Image copyright Dublin Airport
Image caption All flights from Dublin airport have been suspended

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?

Over the past week, the cold weather has killed 23 people in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four in France and at least three in Spain, according to AFP news agency.

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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A tractor removes snow at the UN European headquarters in Geneva

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.

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Media captionHow to keep warm? Tips from cold countries

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

Emergency shelters have been opened by authorities in many countries to cope with the needs of homeless citizens.

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.