‘Beast from the East’ sends Arc­tic blast across Europe

Au­thor­i­ties in­crease re­lief ef­forts on the con­ti­nent


PARIS: A blast of Siberian weather sent tem­per­a­tures plung­ing across much of Europe on Tues­day, caus­ing headaches for trav­el­ers and lead­ing to sev­eral deaths from ex­po­sure as snow car­peted palm-lined Mediter­ranean beaches.

The icy weather is in stark con­trast to con­di­tions in the Arc­tic it­self, which is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an “off-the-charts” heat­wave this week, ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Geo­sciences In­sti­tute.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists have doc­u­mented tem­per­a­tures above freez­ing in some parts of the Arc­tic, caus­ing as­ton­ish­ment among many sci­en­tists. But to the south swathes of Europe were shiv­er­ing un­der tem­per­a­tures well be­low freez­ing, claim­ing at least 10 lives across the con­ti­nent in a snap dubbed “the Beast from the East” by Bri­tish tabloids.

At least five deaths were re­ported in Poland alone on Mon­day as the mer­cury dropped to mi­nus 16 Cel­sius overnight in War­saw.

That brought the num­ber of Pol­ish deaths from freez­ing to 53 since Nov. 1, and tem­per­a­tures are ex­pected to re­main be­low mi­nus 12 Cel­sius across the coun­try Tues­day, with the cold ac­cen­tu­ated by a bit­ing wind.

In Lithua­nia, tem­per­a­tures dropped to as low as mi­nus 26 de­grees Cel­sius overnight, and one sus­pected death of a man from freez­ing was re­ported in the cap­i­tal Vil­nius.

In Bri­tain, au­thor­i­ties warned of five to 10 cen­time­ters of snow on Tues­day and the like­li­hood of travel de­lays on roads, rail net­works and at air­ports, while elec­tric­ity and even mo­bile phone ser­vice may be cut in some ar­eas.

On Mon­day, Bri­tish Air­ways can­celed more than 60 short­haul flights ei­ther de­part­ing or ar­riv­ing from Lon­don Heathrow air­port.

Some of the ici­est con­di­tions were re­ported in Italy, where many schools and day­care cen­ters were closed, to the con­ster­na­tion of par­ents al­ready pre­par­ing for clo­sures next week linked to this week­end’s gen­eral elec­tion.

Pub­lic anger was also grow­ing over the dis­rup­tions to rail ser­vices across the coun­try, as trav­el­ers learned that many track switches did not have de­frost­ing equip­ment, mean­ing they had to be dug out by hand.

In Naples, the air­port was closed early Tues­day and bus ser­vices in the city halted be­cause of ice.

And a driver in Turin got a fright when a sta­lac­tite broke off from an over­head bridge and shat­tered his wind­shield — though he man­aged to keep con­trol of his ve­hi­cle.

One of the cold­est points overnight was at Glat­talp in Switzer­land, where the tem­per­a­ture fell to -38 Cel­sius — ex­treme even for the high-al­ti­tude area (1,850 me­ters), ac­cord­ing to the ATS news agency.

In France, which has re­mained frigid but dry dur­ing the cold snap, fore­cast­ers warned of heavy snow across much of the coun­try start­ing Wed­nes­day — though spring-like tem­per­a­tures would soon fol­low.

On Tues­day, res­i­dents of Ajac­cio on the French Mediter­ranean is­land of Cor­sica woke up to some 15 cen­time­ters of snow on the beach, some­thing not seen since 1986.

At least three peo­ple have died dur­ing the cold snap in France.

Across the con­ti­nent, au­thor­i­ties have been open­ing emer­gency shel­ters and in­creas­ing re­lief ef­forts for the home­less.

The mayor of Et­ter­beek in Bel­gium said those sleep­ing rough would be forcibly de­tained if they re­fused to go to shel­ters, cit­ing the “ma­jor risk” from ex­po­sure to the cold.

In Ber­lin, ris­ing fears for home­less peo­ple led of­fi­cials to open an ad­di­tional 100 beds, with the city’s shel­ters, now with a to­tal of 1,200 beds, more than 90 per­cent full, RBB pub­lic ra­dio re­ported.

The Arc­tic storm saw tem­per­a­tures across Europe fall Mon­day and Tues­day to their low­est level this win­ter, and even brought a rare a snow­storm to Rome. (AP)

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