Deaths, travel chaos in Europe due to cold snap

A street is covered by snow in Santeramo in Colle on Jan 8, 2017 after snowfalls near Bari, in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
A street is covered by snow in Santeramo in Colle on Jan 8, 2017 after snowfalls near Bari, in the Puglia region of southern Italy. PHOTO: AFP

WARSAW (AFP) - A cold snap gripping Europe has killed 10 more people in Poland, stranded thousands in snow-covered Turkey and brought fresh misery for both migrants and the homeless.

Double-digit sub-zero temperatures have claimed more than 30 lives over the past few days, many of them migrants or homeless people found frozen to death.

Sunday (Jan 8) was the deadliest day this winter for cold-related deaths in Poland, where temperatures have plunged to below minus 20 deg C in some regions.

"Yesterday, 10 people died of cold," Poland's centre for national security (RCB) said Monday in a statement, adding that "the number of hypothermia victims has reached 65" since Nov 1.

Heavy snowfall in Turkey's main city Istanbul paralysed traffic for a third straight day with the Bosphorus Strait closed to ships and hundreds of flights cancelled.

Ferry services between the European and Asian sides of the city were scrapped and schools across the city closed.

Flagship carrier Turkish Airlines said only 292 departures from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport were expected on Monday.

On a normal day, the airport can accommodate over 1,500 landings and take-offs.

Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said more than 600 flights had been cancelled on Sunday and over 10,000 travellers unable to reach Istanbul had been put up in hotels worldwide.

A 68-year-old homeless man was found frozen to death in the Macedonian capital Skopje while in Serbia, the south-eastern town of Sjenica saw the mercury plunge to minus 33 deg C.

Traffic on the Danube and Sava rivers was halted in Serbia. Scores of migrants in the capital Belgrade took shelter in a warehouse near the railway station, spurning shelters provided by the government for fear they would be deported back to their countries.

"It's very difficult, especially at night," said Niamat, a 13-year-old Afghan. The temperature overnight was minus 15 deg C.

"I have been waiting here for three months and I do not know when I will be able to continue my journey," said the young migrant, who is travelling alone.

Ismail, 16, added: "Nobody is helping us, it's very cold and I'm worried how we will endure this."

Schools were closed across cities in central Siberia on Monday but classes resumed in Moscow where the temperature rose by 7 deg C to minus 20 deg C.

The Russian capital recorded its coldest Orthodox Christmas Night for 120 years at the weekend, according to media reports.

Greece and Italy have also seen fierce cold weather over the past week and in both countries, several migrants have died of hypothermia.

With more than 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees on its territory, Greece has moved many migrants to prefabricated houses and heated tents.