Europe's cold snap claims more lives

Story highlights

  • The Red Cross releases $141,000 in emergency funds to help those in need
  • Rare snow is forecast in parts of the Sahara Desert in Algeria and Morocco
  • Serbia declares a state of emergency in 23 municipalities due to the weather
  • 38 people have died of hypothermia in Ukraine over the past 24 hours -- state media

Eastern and central Europe continue to shiver under a blanket of heavy snow Friday, with more deaths reported after bitter cold overnight temperatures.

Ukraine is probably the worst affected, with Poland, Romania, Serbia and Belarus also suffering much more severe winter conditions than usual.

Thirty-eight people have died of hypothermia in Ukraine over the past 24 hours, the state-run news agency Ukrinform reported Friday morning, citing government ministries.

The latest deaths take the total number killed in Ukraine in the cold spell that started January 27 to 101, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, temperatures in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, continue to plummet. Friday morning's lows dipped to 27 degrees below zero Celsius (17 degrees below zero Fahrenheit), and it was the ninth day in a row that temperatures had dropped below minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Twenty-nine people had died in Poland as of Thursday, according to the publicly funded Polish Radio's news website.

Temperatures hit record lows in Romania
Temperatures hit record lows in Romania


    Temperatures hit record lows in Romania


Temperatures hit record lows in Romania 02:07
European temperatures plummet
European temperatures plummet


    European temperatures plummet


European temperatures plummet 02:04

Other cold-related deaths have been reported in Serbia, Romania and elsewhere in the past week.

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Joe Lowry, spokesman for the International Red Cross Europe Zone, said many people across the region are in urgent need of help.

"If 163 people have frozen to death on the European streets, it is a disaster," he told CNN.

The homeless and elderly are among the most vulnerable, Lowry said, as well as those who often find themselves on the margins of society, such as alcoholics or people with mental health issues.

He said the Red Cross is helping people by providing warm clothing, boots, hot drinks and food, as well as shelter in heated tents and moral support. Local authorities must also react effectively to the crisis to save lives, he said.

The sudden start to the bitter cold weather after what had been a mild winter for some parts of Eastern Europe caught many people unaware, Lowry said.

He added: "The human body is not designed to withstand temperatures of -32 degrees Celsius (about -25 degrees Fahrenheit). If you are not well nourished, if you don't have the right clothes to wear, if you don't have shelter, you cannot possibly stand them for long."

The International Red Cross has released just over €108,000 ($141,000) from its disaster relief fund to help deal with the emergency, with about one-third going to Belarus and two-thirds to Ukraine, an online statement says.

More funds are needed to help pay for supplies, fuel for volunteers' vehicles and publicity to get information out to those in need, Lowry added.

CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos said the challenge now faced by many people is that the cold spell is lasting so long.

The first reports of heavy snow came from Romania on January 26, Ramos said. Now, although temperatures are becoming more moderate, the snowfall will be very heavy, particularly for Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary and Romania. Some areas could get an additional half meter (20 inches) of snow.

Ramos advises people to be "weather aware" in how they dress, making use of layers and keeping dry if at all possible. In extreme temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower, exposed skin can freeze in less than 30 minutes, she said -- and even faster if clothing is wet.

People should wear a hat and gloves, and cover their ears, nose and mouth to help them regulate their temperature, she said.

A state of emergency has now been declared in 23 municipalities in Serbia because of the snow, the state-run news agency Tanjug reported Friday.

Six people have died from the cold in Serbia, and one is missing and presumed dead, the news agency Tanjug quoted emergencies official Predrag Maric, of the country's interior ministry, as saying Thursday.

About 11,500 people have been cut off from the world by heavy snowfall, Maric told the agency.

Europe's cold blast extends all the way to Africa, with rare snow falling in parts of the Sahara Desert in Algeria and Morocco, said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. More snow is expected this weekend for some areas that see snow fewer than once a decade.

Cold and snow warnings stretch from Portugal to Finland, with 25 countries posting warnings, Miller said.

It's been snowing in central Italy for almost a week and there is more forecast for the next two days.

Ferrari's plans to unveil a new car for the 2012 Formula One season Friday were dashed by heavy snowfall at the Italian team's Maranello factory.

The legendary brand had planned to showcase the new car, which they hope will win them a first drivers' championship since 2007.

Eastern England will see significant snowfall this weekend, including London which could see 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) accumulate.

Temperatures will rebound this weekend in Eastern Europe, but a significant snowstorm will make travel conditions treacherous from the Aegean Sea all the way to Moscow, Miller added.