East Europe Cold Sparks Avalanche, Power Cuts as Thaw Predicted

Eastern Europe suffered a fatal avalanche and power cuts amid snowfall and chilling temperatures as Ukraine predicted the worst of the freezing weather that’s killed hundreds in the region may have passed.

A five-year-old girl was the only survivor from a family of nine after an avalanche fell on two adjacent homes in southern Kosovo Feb. 10. Serbia cut electricity supplies to non-essential industries, while temperatures as low as minus 36.5 degrees Celsius (minus 33.7 degrees Fahrenheit) disrupted the Czech Republic’s power grid and Croatian islands lost power.

Eastern Europe has been hit by cold Siberian air from the north, while the southern Balkans countries have suffered from above-normal snowfall. Czech forecasters said temperatures may rise to zero by mid-week, while Ukraine said conditions would begin to ease tomorrow in signs the cold snap may be coming to an end.

“Ukraine has survived the coldest period of winter this year,” Mykola Kulbida, head of the country’s weather center, said today in a statement on the Emergency Ministry website. Temperatures may reach as high as minus 6 Celsius tomorrow and minus 1 Celsius by Feb. 17, while snowfall will be heavy, he predicted.

At least 112 people have died in Ukraine since Jan. 27, while 3,360 have been hospitalized with frostbite, the Health Ministry said today on its website. A boiler exploded in the city of Feodosiya, 877 kilometers (545 miles) south of Kiev, cutting heating supplies to 25 five-floor apartment buildings, a school and a kindergarten.

Balkan Snow

The child who survived the avalanche in Kosovo was found by rescuers in the arms of her mother who died when the snow and ice crushed the two houses, killing both parents and seven relatives, the Beta news agency reported. All schools in Kosovo are closed through Feb. 20.

In northern Montenegro, a 55-year-old man died from a suspected heart attack after a train got stuck in snow-covered mountains, forcing passengers to wait more than 30 hours to be evacuated, the Tanjug news agency reported.

Several islands in Croatia lost power because of gale-force winds after snow blanketed the country over the weekend, according to the HINA news agency. Croatian ice breakers are clearing the Drava river to ensure the passage of ships.

‘Conditions to Ease’

“The temperatures will continue to dip to minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) tonight, but there will be no new snow,” meteorologist Kristijan Bozarov said today in a phone interview from Zagreb, the Croatian capital. “We expect the extreme winter conditions to ease from the middle of this week.”

Elektroprivreda Srbije, Serbia’s power monopoly, said today in an e-mailed statement that it cut off electricity to non-essential industrial consumers over the weekend to stabilize the grid. The outages enabled supplies to households to continue, it said, reiterating calls for all consumers to save energy.

Serbia’s government has extended a Feb. 15-16 national holiday to Feb. 17 as part of efforts to lower electricity consumption and reduce the traffic amid snow drifts. Schools are in the second week of an unplanned break on advice from the Education Ministry.

Six people have died since yesterday in Romania because of freezing temperatures, bringing the death toll to 74 in the last two weeks, the Health Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement. More than 200 people have been treated for cold-related injuries.

Ships Stranded

More than 100 schools and kindergartens were shut today across the country, Romania’s Education Ministry said in a statement on its website.

The Romanian section of the Danube river was closed as icebreakers work to free five stranded ships, while about 10 national roads and motorways were closed because of heavy snowfall and blizzards, the Transport Ministry said today.

Hungary sent four icebreakers to the Serbian-Croatian part of the Danube at the weekend to prevent ice from forming and causing flooding, according to the National Water Management Directorate.

Police listed 11 deaths in Poland from cold and exposure on Feb. 11-12, down from 16 the previous weekend. Temperatures in Warsaw tomorrow will be as low as minus 10 Celsius, compared with minus 9 Celsius today, according to CustomWeather Inc. data.

Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, has arranged shelters for the city’s homeless, mayor Gigi Ugulava told reporters today.

Moscow children in the first through fourth grades were given permission to skip school today because of temperatures as low as minus 30 Celsius, RIA Novosti reported Feb. 12, citing Alexander Gavrilov, head of Moscow’s education department.

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