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‘Beast from East’ blankets Rome in rare snowfall, schools shut, Italians ski, sled | In pics

Italy even mobilised the army to help clear slush-covered streets as a city used to mild winters was covered by a thick blanket of snow..

world Updated: Feb 27, 2018 16:15 IST
The Associated Press, Rome
Rome snowfall,Rome,Italy
People build a snowman as it snows at St Peter's square on February 26, 2018 at the Vatican. (AFP )

The Arctic storm dubbed the “Beast from the East” saw temperatures across much of Europe fall Monday to their lowest level this winter and even brought a rare snowstorm to Rome, paralysing the city and giving its residents the chance to ski, sled and build snowmen in its famous parks and piazzas.

Rome’s schools were ordered closed, while train, plane and bus services were crippled. Italy’s civil protection agency even mobilised the army to help clear slush-covered streets as a city used to mild winters was covered by a thick blanket of snow.

“Beautiful, beautiful!” marvelled Roman resident Ginevra Sciurpa, who donned a fur hat and thick scarf to brave the cold. “Even though I’m not a child anymore, the enthusiasm for the snow is still the same. It is always beautiful, and above all I didn’t have to go to work.”

People walk in central via dei Fori during a snowfall in Rome. (AFP Photo)
Tourists visit the Arch of Constantine during a snowfall in Rome. (AFP Photo)

By noon the snow had all but melted, but freezing temperatures expected overnight prompted officials to close Rome schools on Tuesday for a second day and warn of continuing traffic and train chaos due to the ice that was already forming on slick cobblestone sidewalks and streets.

Parks that usually stay green through winter were blanketed white, giving eager Romans a rare opportunity to go sledding, snow-shoeing or skiing. Even the Circo Massimo became a hotspot for snowball fights, while Piazza Navona, with its famed Bernini fountains, turned into a snow-dusted winter wonderland.

General view of the Piazza Navona in Rome covered by snow. (AFP Photo)
People walk at Villa Borghese during a heavy snowfall in Rome. (Reuters Photo)

Rome’s Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea usually result in mild winters, such that restaurants often keep outdoor seating open, albeit with space heaters, even through the coldest months of the year.

Elsewhere in Europe, the storm set dangerously low temperatures: Lithuanian officials said temperatures that plunged to as low as minus 24 degrees Celsius (minus 11 Fahrenheit) in some places were to blame for the deaths of at least three people over the weekend. Hospitals in Lithuania and Latvia have reported an uptick in people being treated for hypothermia and frostbite.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s car skidded off the road in a snowstorm north of Stockholm and smashed into railing, one of several snow-related traffic accidents in Sweden. He was uninjured.

People walk in central via dei Fori covered with snow in Rome. (AFP Photo)
People walk in the snow near the Colosseum in Rome. (AFP Photo)
A picture taken on February 26, 2018 shows a panoramic view of Rome covered by snow. (AFP Photo)

Meteorologists in Germany, meanwhile, reported a record low for this winter of -27 C (-16.6 F) on the Zugspitze mountain in the Alps. Moscow, as well, recorded its coldest night this winter, with the mercury dipping to nearly -20 C (-4 F) on Sunday night.

Doctors in Britain warned that the already-stretched National Health Service may have trouble coping with extra patients affected by what meteorologists are forecasting will be days of cold and high winds. British Airways canceled a number of short-haul flights into and out of Heathrow Airport.

The intense winter weather has been dubbed “The Beast from the East” by British tabloids, citing the Siberian Arctic as the source of the frigid temperatures. The storm system has moved progressively south and west and is expected to bring continued cold and snow for several days over much of Europe.

People walk in the snow past Venezia square in Rome. (AFP Photo)
Saint Peter's Basilica dome is seen from afar after a heavy snowfall, in Rome. (Reuters Photo)

In Croatia, about 1,000 soldiers joined in the clearing operations in the worst-affected areas, where over 1.5 metres were reported.

First Published: Feb 27, 2018 08:50 IST