Big freeze inflicts chaos and death all over Europe and Turkey
Warsaw — The cold spell gripping Europe has killed more than 30 people, stranded thousands in snow-covered Turkey and brought more misery for migrants and the homeless.
For days now, parts of Europe have had double-digit subzero temperatures. Sunday was Poland’s worst day this winter for people freezing to death with the mercury plunging to below -20°C Celsius in some regions.
"Yesterday, 10 people died of cold," Poland’s centre for national security said on Monday. Hypothermia had killed 65 people since November 1.
Heavy snow in Turkey’s main city Istanbul paralysed traffic for a third day running. The Bosphorus Strait was closed to ships and hundreds of flights cancelled. Ferry services between the European and Asian sides of the city were scrapped and schools were closed.
Flagship carrier Turkish Airlines said only 292 departures from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport were expected on Monday. On a normal day, the airport has more than 1,500 landings and take-offs.
Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said more than 600 flights were cancelled on Sunday and 10,000 travellers unable to reach Istanbul were put up in hotels worldwide.
A 68-year-old homeless man was found frozen to death in the Macedonian capital of Skopje. In Serbia, the temperature in the town of Sjenica plunged to -33°C.
Traffic on the Danube and Sava rivers was halted in Serbia. Scores of migrants in the capital Belgrade sheltered in a warehouse near the railway station, spurning government shelters 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 -15°C. "I have been waiting here for three months. I do not know when I will be able to continue my journey," said the young migrant, who is travelling alone.
Ismail, aged 16, said: "Nobody is helping us. It’s very cold. I’m worried about how we will endure this."
Schools were closed in central Siberian cities on Monday, but classes resumed in Moscow where the temperature rose seven degrees to -20°C. The Russian capital reportedly had its coldest Orthodox Christmas Night in 120 years at the weekend.
Greece and Italy have had fiercely cold weather for the past week with migrants dying of hypothermia. Greece has moved many of its 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees to prefabricated houses and heated tents.