Seven freeze to death in Europe's coldest winter night

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 07 2009 10:18 PM | Updated as of Jan 08 2009 06:18 AM

WARSAW - A blast of frigid weather has claimed seven more lives in Poland as temperatures across Europe tumbled below freezing overnight in what weather officials Wednesday dubbed the coldest night of winter.

Polish police said the latest victims who froze to death Tuesday included a 68-year-old homeless man found in an abandoned house in the southeast town of Jozefow, and a 51-year-old man who lived alone in central Eligiow and died a few steps away from his home.

Temperatures in Poland dropped as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to Interior Ministry data, hypothermia has been blamed for 76 deaths in Poland since November 2008.

Snowfalls disrupted air traffic around Europe shutting down airports in Italy for several hours and paralysing TGV high-speed trains in France.

Milan's two airports Malpensa and Linate, as well as the airports in Turin and Bergamo, were closed all morning after snow reached up to 30 centimetres (one foot).

The French weather service called it "the coldest night of winter" so far with temperatures ranging for minus nine degress Celsius in Paris -- the coldest since 1997 -- and minus 20 degrees Celsius in the northern Ardennes region.

The rare sight of snow was seen in the southern Mediterranean port of Marseille, closing the local airport and leaving some 12,000 households in the region without electricity.

Demand for power for heating has soared and raised the risk of power cuts, especially in Brittany and the southeast.

Heavy snow has forced the closing of the mountainous French-Italian border since Tuesday night.

In Germany, where earlier this week a 77-year-old mentally ill woman froze to death, temperatures plummeted overnight with many areas recording record lows.

The coldest place was Dippoldiswalde-Reinberg near Dresden in the east where the mercury plunged to minus 27.7 degrees Celsius.

"Temperatures like this suggest that in certain places in the region the lowpoint must have been under the minus 30 mark," the German weather office said in a statement.

The freezing weather is expected to last through the week due to a stable mass of cold air coming from Scandanavia and Siberia, the French weather service said.