Snowstorm grips Russia's far east
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- The worst snowstorms in Russia's far east for 50 years cut electricity supplies and brought traffic to a standstill on Tuesday.
Armoured personnel carriers helped pull trolley buses up slopes in the streets of the Pacific coast port of Vladivostok, while fights broke out over limited places on public transport.
In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on Russia's far east Sakhalin island, which has been cut off from mainland Russia by the storm, Interfax news agency quoted emergency services as saying three children died on Sunday after being buried by snow.
The agency reported on Tuesday that the three -- two boys and a girl -- were sliding down a snow-covered roof and brought a heap of snow down on top of themselves. Local residents and rescue workers were unable to dig them out in time to save them.
"Such snowfalls are seen once every 50 years in Primorye (province). In the space of a few hours one-and-a-half times the monthly norm has fallen," an official at the meteorological centre for the far eastern province of Primorye told Reuters.
"And according to our forecasts, this snowfall could continue for another 24 hours."
ORT state television said there was around half a metre of snow on the ground.
Heavily-clothed residents in Vladivostok stumbled through the streets in swirling snow, while workers with shovels and snow-clearing machines fought to free the roads.
Officials said homes in several regions of Vladivostok and some coastal villages were plunged into darkness and cold when power supplies were cut off for up to five hours. Many people were forced to walk to work.
Itar-Tass news agency said road traffic had been paralysed between Vladivostok and nearby Nakhodka and Partizansk and authorities were working to clear the roads.
In Moscow, four people died from hypothermia in the capital overnight, Interfax news agency quoted emergency services there as saying.
They estimated that a total of 297 people had been killed by the cold in the capital this winter.
In Moscow, eight time zones west of Vladivostok, temperatures on Monday night fell to -27C (-16.6F) and -30 Celsius (-22F) in surrounding regions.
Interfax, quoting forecasters, said so far this January had been the coldest for 24 years in central Russia, with the mercury dropping to -33C (-27.4F) in the first few days of the new year.
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