12 Feb 2012

Thousands continue to suffer in freezing Europe

1:57 pm on 12 February 2012

Freezing temperatures have left thousands stranded without power in Europe, as the death toll from one of the coldest winters in years continues to rise.

More than 500 people have died in the past two weeks as temperatures plummeted in many regions close to minus 40 degrees Celsius.

At least seven people were killed in a Kosovan village by an avalanche that swallowed 15 houses.

Blizzards in the Western Balkans have knocked down power lines and are expected to last into next week, DPA reports.

In Montenegro, the government has declared a state of emergency.

Serbian authorities have reported three new deaths, raising their overall toll to 19.

In Poland, police say eight people have died in house fires, while in Romania eight more deaths have raised that country's death toll to 65.

Heavy snow has also returned to many parts of Italy, where six recent deaths have been linked to the cold weather.

In Paris, a major Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland was cancelled after the referee declared the pitch at Stade de France stadium was frozen.

But in eastern Germany, the freezing conditions didn't stop members of the Helenesee-Loewen swimming association take their usual weekend dip on Saturday.

The temperatures in the Helenesee lake near Frankfurt an der Oder was 1 degree Celsius - warmer than the air temperature, which fell to minus 8 degrees Celsius.