6 Feb 2012

Death toll over 300 as Europe continues to freeze

2:02 pm on 6 February 2012

The severe cold snap that has gripped Europe for more than a week has now claimed more than 300 lives, strained emergency services and paralysed travel.

Temperatures have plunged as low as minus 40C, and the bitter cold front that has engulfed much of the continent has even crossed the Mediterranean into north Africa.

The homeless in several countries have borne the brunt of the deaths, with dozens of transients freezing to death in unheated apartments, fire escapes or in makeshift street shelters.

Ukraine continues to be hardest hit, with another nine deaths recorded overnight on Sunday.

Some 1800 people have been hospitalised, and 75,000 people sought warmth and food in over 3000 shelters throughout the country, AFP reports.

The Bosnian capital Sarajevo is under a state of emergency and thousands of people in communities in Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia remain cut off.

Eight people died in Poland on Sunday, police say, bringing the toll there to 53, the BBC reports.

At least four have died in France since the Arctic spell began and 43 departments in the country have been put on alert for "exceptional" weather conditions.

London's Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest passenger air hub, cancelled half of Sunday's 1300 flights after six centimetres of snow covered runways.

The Italian capital Rome has seen its heaviest snowfall in more than 25 years, with runs on essential goods at supermarkets reported.