Cold weather death toll passes 100 in Ukraine

  • 3 February 2012
  • From the section Europe
Media captionHeated tents have been set up in Ukraine for homeless people

More than 100 people have now died as a result of freezing weather in Ukraine since last Friday, the government has announced in Kiev.

Most of the 101 who died were homeless people and 64 of them were found dead on the streets, the emergencies ministry said.

Hundreds of others have been treated in hospital for frostbite, hypothermia and other cold-related conditions.

Temperatures plunged to below -35C in parts of eastern Europe this week.

At least eight more deaths were reported in Poland on Thursday, bringing the death toll there since last week to 37.

Cold weather deaths have been reported across eastern and central Europe

  • Russia recorded cold 64 cold weather deaths for the whole of January, Interfax news agency reports, but it is unclear if this is related directly to the hard frosts which began last week
  • In Serbia at least 11,000 villagers have been trapped by heavy snow and blizzards in mountainous areas, the Associated Press reports
  • In Italy, weather experts said it was the coldest week for 27 years.

Gas burn

In Ukraine, more freezing weather was forecast for Friday, with overnight temperatures set to fall to as low as -32C in the north and west.

The authorities closed schools and colleges and set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters across the country.

Health officials instructed hospitals not to discharge homeless patients, even after treatment, in order to save them from the cold.

Media captionScenes of freezing weather in Ukraine, Poland and France

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov announced that the country had burnt 1bn cu m of gas in just three days.

The country's gas order from Russia for the whole of 2012 is 27bn cu m.

"It's a very hard time for the country," he said, promising that the difficulties would be overcome.

The Russian gas supplier, Gazprom, said Ukraine was exceeding the level of gas consumption envisaged in the contract.

Most Russian gas exports to EU countries transit Ukraine. On Thursday Austria's energy firm OMV reported a 30% drop in its supply of Russian gas, while Italy's gas distributor Snam Rete Gas said its Russian gas was down by about 20%.

In the winter of 2009 Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off gas meant for European customers. Gazprom cut supplies, leaving more than a dozen countries short of Russian gas.

Some, like Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia, are almost completely dependent on supplies via Ukraine and so were left with major shortages, during a very cold spell in Europe.

'Take exercise'

Ukraine's Emergencies Minister Viktor Baloga has advised the public to take more exercise as a remedy against the cold.

"You need to get up in the morning, take active exercise and work," he was quoted by Ukrainskaya Pravda as telling reporters on Wednesday.

"It hasn't killed anyone yet and only makes a person fitter."

His personal advice to keep warm, he added, was to "run 8-10km [5-6 miles] every morning and bathe in cold water, all year round".

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