3 Feb 2012

Death toll rises as cold snap grips Europe

8:39 am on 3 February 2012

A cold snap is keeping Europe in its icy grip, pushing the death toll to 163 as countries from Ukraine to Italy struggle with plunging temperatures.

Entire villages are cut off trapping thousands, road, air and rail links were severed in several places and gas consumption shot up as people grappled with the severest winter in decades in several places.

Bulgaria is experiencing its coldest weather in a century, while temperatures hit minus 32 degrees Celsius in south-west Poland and minus 31 in Romania, AFP reports.

In Ukraine, tens of thousands have headed to shelters trying to escape the freeze that the emergencies ministry said had killed 63 people. Many have frozen to death on the street.

Hundreds of Italians were trapped on trains overnight on Thursday as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the centre and north caused chaos on roads and railways and at airports.

In France, 41 of the 101 regions were on alert for snow or "deep cold".