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Eastern Europe scrambles to deal with brutal winter

Story highlights

  • Snowmobiles finally able to reach Bosnian village
  • At least 250 people have died across Europe due to the cold weather
  • More snow is forecast to blanket the southeast, where many roads are already closed
  • Temperatures thoughout Europe are significantly lower than average for winter

Even bundled up in a purple jacket and light blue turtleneck sweater, warming herself in a thick canvas emergency tent heated by a stove, the young Ukrainian woman feels the bitter chill.

"It is very cold," she said. "The frost is very strong. It's very slippery out there."

But she is one of the lucky ones, taking refuge from the brutal winter pummeling eastern Europe in a temporary shelter put up by the Ukrainian government.

"Here it's warm and there's food and drink," she said.

"It's very important, especially for people like us in this unfortunate situation," said another man taking refuge in the shelter.

At least 250 people have died across the region during the cold snap, with 135 of them in Ukraine.

    Authorities there have set up an emergency hospital to deal with people suffering from cold-related conditions, and distributed 3,000 emergency relief tents across the country, they said. The tents are heated, and people with nowhere else to go can get hot food and drinks.

    Kiev has more than 14,000 homeless people, authorities said. They are among the most vulnerable to winter.

    About 2,000 people have been hospitalized because of the cold since January 27, officials said.

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    Electricity consumption in the country is at historic highs, Ukrainian energy minister Yuri Boyko said.

    In Bosnia, two men on snowmobiles finally reached the isolated village of Zijemlja, according to state news agency FENA. It had been cut off for five days. Residents in some parts of the country were warned of the potential for avalanches.

    There was some good news, according to FENA. Inhabitants of the Sarajevo Zoo were in winter quarters and had sufficient food.

    More than 50 people, most of them homeless, have died in Poland in the past several weeks, according to Polish TVN. At least 64 people have died because of the cold in Russia, the government said.

    Snow has also fallen as far west as Spain and snarled traffic in Brussels, Belgium. Snowfall in Europe's southeast, close to the Mediterranean Sea, is cutting off roads and isolating areas from access to supplies.

    Southeastern Europe will see more heavy snow in contrast to the northeast, which is predicted to shiver under temperatures much lower than its winter averages, meteorologists said.

    Cold air arriving from Siberia has been hitting maritime moisture from the Mediterranean Sea, turning it into frozen precipitation. This will continue, and Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia are expected to receive new layers of snow.

    The bitter cold temperatures in the northeast have been deadlier than the snow farther south, with many people dying from hypothermia.

    Is the cold snap affecting you?

    In Romania, where at least 39 people have died because of the cold snap, all "national roads," or two-lane highways, in seven counties in the country's south and east were completely blocked, state news agency Agerpres reported Monday. Traffic was in chaos in the capital Bucharest and possible blizzards have been forecast for half the country in the coming days.

    In Italy, a Milan court delayed the trial of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on charges of bribery Monday because of cold temperatures in the courtroom, according to the Italian ANSA news agency. It was moved to warmer chambers, which had often been the scene of another case involving Berlusconi, when he had been accused of paying for sex with a minor -- a Moroccan girl known as "Ruby."

    The severe cold is forecast to continue all week, meteorologists said.

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