At least nine dead as blizzards, icy weather grip parts of Europe

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Associated Press

Blizzards swept parts of Europe on overnight, causing at least nine deaths, closing roads and resulting in traffic accidents, travel delays and medical evacuations.

In Poland, the cold snap was blamed for five deaths in 24 hours. Three people died from hypothermia, while two more died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning heaters, the government Security Center said.

A man with frost on his face runs along the bank of the Neris river as temperatures dipped to -21 degrees Celsius (-5.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Vilnius, Lithuania, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

A man with frost on his face runs along the bank of the Neris river as temperatures dipped to -21C in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Source: Associated Press

Officials in neighbouring Ukraine reported that four people had died from effects of the cold in the Lviv region near the Polish border.

In Romania, authorities said 90 people were rescued from stranded cars and that crews were working to save people stuck in some 30 cars on a major highway. More than 40 trains were not running due to snow on the tracks.

Senior emergency situations official Raed Arafat said Romanian authorities also evacuated 622 people who needed dialysis and 126 pregnant women.

Snowfall and heavy winds closed roads and some train services in central Italy, pounded areas hit by recent earthquakes and forced the cancellation of some ferry crossings to islands off Naples and Sicily. Even Naples itself got a rare dusting of snow.

The frigid temperatures canceled many Epiphany festivities, though about 35,000 people braved the cold to attend Pope Francis' blessing in St. Peter's Square.

The fierce cold coincided with Orthodox Christmas Eve, when Russian churches are usually packed. The Moscow city transport department said it was deploying 130 buses to stand outside churches as warming stations for worshippers, the Interfax news agency said.

Serbia's state television reported that 22 people, including children, were injured in a pileup caused by the wintry weather on the outskirts of the southern city of Nis.

A horse falls as villagers compete in a traditional Epiphany celebration horse race in Pietrosani, Romania, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. According to the local Epiphany traditions, following a religious service, villagers have their horses blessed with Holy water then compete in a race. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A horse falls as villagers compete in a traditional Epiphany celebration horse race in Pietrosani, Romania.

Source: Associated Press

Local official Dragan Dimitrijevic said emergency crews were "helpless against the wind" and snow drifts that piled up to two metres high.

"New piles form almost immediately after we clear up," he said.

Turkish Airlines canceled 192 domestic and international flights that were scheduled today after heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds were forecast for Istanbul.

Bulgarian authorities said some 650 villages across the country were without electricity due to high winds and heavy snow.

Emergency officials rescued snowed-in residents in villages in northern Albania, where up to 120 centimetres of snow fell, leading to power outages.

The temperatures dipped below freezing even along Croatia's Adriatic coast, where winds up to 160km/h halted some ferry traffic to the islands and over the bridges along the coastline.

In Poland, where temperatures dropped to minus 25C yesterday in the southern mountainous region, winds whipped up to 90kmp/h, and more than 2,000 households were without heating in the southern Rybnik area.

In Moscow, the Emergencies Ministry warned the temperature could plummet to minus 35C over the next two days and urged people not to stay too long outside.

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