Eastern Europe scrambles to deal with brutal winter

Story highlights

  • Ukraine sets up an emergency hospital and distributes heated tents
  • At least 250 people have died across Europe due to weather
  • More snow is forecast to blanket the southeast, where many roads are already closed
  • Temperatures thoughout Europe are significantly lower than average for winter

Eastern Europe remained in the grip of brutal cold and deep snows Tuesday, with authorities in Ukraine, the hardest-hit country, scrambling to help thousands of people whose lives are at risk due to the weather.

At least 250 people have already died across the region during the cold snap, with 135 of the dead in Ukraine.

Authorities there have set up an emergency hospital to deal with people suffering from cold-related conditions, and distributed 3,000 emergency relief tents across the country, they said. The tents are heated and can supply hot food and drinks to people with nowhere else to go.

Kiev alone has more than 14,000 homeless people, authorities said -- among the most vulnerable to winter.

About 2,000 people have been hospitalized due to the cold since January 27, officials said.

Electricity consumption in the country is at historic highs, Ukrainian energy minister Yuri Boyko said.

Southeastern Europe will see more heavy snow in contrast to the northeast, which is predicted to shiver under temperatures much lower than its winter averages, said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward.

    "All of Europe will be well below normal," Ward said, "10-15 degrees below normal."

    Cold air arriving from Siberia has been hitting maritime moisture from the Mediterranean Sea, turning it into frozen precipitation. This will continue, and Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia are expected receive new layers of snow. "Turkey is also going to have heavy snow," said Ward.

    The bitter cold temperatures in the northeast have been deadlier than the snow farther south, with many dying from hypothermia.

    More than 50 people, most of them homeless, have died in Poland, according to Polish TVN. At least 64 people have died because of the cold in Russia, the government said.

    Snow has also fallen as far west as Spain and snarled traffic in Brussels, Belgium. Snowfall in Europe's southeast, close to the Mediterranean Sea, is cutting off roads and isolating areas from access to supplies.

    In Romania, where at least 39 people have died because of the cold snap, all "national roads," two-lane highways, in seven counties in the country's south and east were completely blocked, state news agency Agerpres reported Monday. Traffic was in chaos in the capital Bucharest and possible blizzards have been forecast for half the country in the coming days.

    In Bosnia helicopters delivered supplies to an isolated region Monday, while the military worked to restore infrastructure, according to state news agency FENA. Snow over 10 feet deep (three meters) covered the village of Zijemlje, which has been cut off from electricity for at least three days.

    In Italy, a Milan court delayed on Monday the trial of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of bribery because of cold temperatures in the courtroom, according to the Italian ANSA news agency. It was moved to warmer chambers, which had often been the scene of another case involving Berlusconi, when he had been accused of paying for sex with a minor -- a Moroccan girl known as "Ruby".

    The severe cold is forecast to continue all week, Ward said. "We are definitely going to hit the two-week mark by this weekend."

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