Icy blast from Siberia sweeps across Europe


A wintry blast of freezing temperatures swept across Europe, with a biting wind from Siberia claiming at least four lives and endangering the continent's homeless with the worst yet to come.

The "Beast from the East", as the phenomenon has been dubbed by the British media, is expected to bring chilling winds from Russia over the next week that will make it feel even colder than thermometers indicate.

At least eight people have died in ice-cold weather over the weekend in Poland, security authorities said yesterday. The deaths bring the total number who have died due to the cold since November to 48, as reported by DPA.

Temperatures sank to minus 20 degrees Celcius in some places. The frosty conditions are set to continue, and authorities have called on citizens to help the elderly and homeless, who are particularly vulnerable in winter.

The cold snap has already been linked to several deaths, as well as postponing an Italian football match and causing traffic chaos.

In France, where temperatures were forecast to drop to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and feel as low as minus 18 degrees Celsius over the coming days, fears ran high for people living on the streets.

A homeless man in the city of Valence in the country's southeast was found dead on Sunday, and another man was found dead in his cabin in the suburbs of Paris on Friday.

France has opened up extra emergency shelters for the homeless, and in Calais in northern France, about 200 migrants were spared the cold on Saturday night. Over a year after the French government razed the sprawling Jungle camp, there are still hundreds of migrants around the port of Calais, hoping to stow away on trucks to Britain.

Britain's weather service, the Met Office, forecast that northern England would have 10 centimeters (4 inches) of snow over the next three days, amid temperatures that could feel as cold as minus 15 degrees Celsius.

It also warned of widespread travel disruption, saying: "Snow showers, already affecting eastern parts of England early on Monday, are expected to become more persistent and more widespread through Monday afternoon and evening."

Russia itself was not spared, with its meteorological service warning of "abnormally cold" temperatures until Wednesday.

Schools were closed yesterday due to the snow in Rome, with minus 6 degrees Celsius forecast on Sunday night, and authorities advised drivers to avoid trips in potentially risky mountainous regions due to snow and ice.

In Austria, temperatures dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius and feel even colder. "It will feel like minus 30," Stefan Kiesenhofer of the Austrian meteorological service ZAMG told the Oesterreich newspaper. A cold snap like this "comes every seven to 10 years," he said.

Schools were also closed in Romania's capital Bucharest, as well as three areas in the country's south, with more snowfall expected amid lows of minus 15 degrees Celsius to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

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