Freezing weather and deadly winter storm kill 55 in Europe

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International desk, Mar 2: Large parts of Europe have endured another night of freezing conditions as a Siberian weather system continues to bring chaos.Blizzards and heavy snowfall have closed roads, rail services and schools and forced the cancellations of hundreds of flights.

The unusually cold spell is being felt as far south as the Mediterranean.

The number of weather-related deaths rose to as many as 55 with 21 victims in Poland, most of them rough sleepers.

It triggered a warning from the World Health Organization that the poor, the homeless and migrants would be hardest hit by the big freeze.

“Those most at risk of cold-related illness include elderly people, children, and people who have chronic diseases or physical or mental limitations,” it said as a statement.

The weather system has been given various nicknames – in the UK it is “the Beast from the East” while the Dutch call it the “Siberian bear” and Swedes the “snow cannon”.

Snow has even appeared on the normally balmy beaches of the French Riviera.

Ireland remains braced for what is predicted to be its heaviest snowfall in decades as Storm Emma moves in from the south.

Flights in and out of Dublin airport were suspended with service disruptions expected to continue until Saturday at the earliest.

The airport in the Swiss city of Geneva was forced to shut down on Thursday morning but was reopened after the runway was cleared using snow ploughs.

In France, about 2,000 drivers were stranded on a motorway near the city of Montpellier, with some complaining of being stuck for as long as 24 hours.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport was also hit by freezing winds with KLM airlines cancelling or delaying dozens of flights.

Some rail services operated by Eurostar between London, Paris and Brussels were axed.

Source: Agencies and BBC