WARSAW/LYON • A cold wave across Europe has taken at least 27 lives in the past few days, including those of several migrants and homeless people, and victims of accidents due to icy roads.
Russia, meanwhile, celebrated the coldest Orthodox Christmas in 120 years. Temperatures in Moscow fell to minus 30 deg C overnight and to minus 24 deg C in Saint Petersburg.
Yesterday, four Portuguese tourists were killed and some 20 others injured when their bus crashed off a highway in central France. The 40-seat bus was on its way to Switzerland when tragedy struck. As the cold wave hits much of Europe, a weather alert has been issued for central and eastern France.
The heavy snowstorms also reached Turkey, paralysing its biggest city Istanbul, where almost 65cm of snow fell. The snow provided a rare chance to see Istanbul's famous minaret and dome-studded skyline cloaked in white. Coastguards ordered a halt to shipping traffic in both directions through the Bosphorus Strait and the municipal ferry service between the European and Asian sides of the city was also suspended.
Flag carrier Turkish Airlines cancelled some 610 flights from the main Ataturk International Airport and from Sabiha Gokcen airport because of poor visibility and high winds. Almost 6,000 travellers are being accommodated in hotels in Istanbul after their flights were cancelled, reports said.
Turkish Airlines flights between Singapore and Istanbul scheduled on Saturday and yesterday were also cancelled.
Greece, likewise, has seen fierce cold weather over the past week. In the north near the Turkish frontier a 20-year-old Afghan migrant died of the cold. With more than 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees on its territory, Greece has moved many migrants to prefabricated houses and heated tents.