Avalanche kills 9 in Kosovo as freeze grips Europe
Nine people were killed when an avalanche hit the village of Restelica in southern Kosovo, officials said today, adding to more than 500 killed in snow and bitter cold across Europe in the past two weeks.world Updated: Feb 12, 2012 22:25 IST
Nine people were killed when an avalanche hit the village of Restelica in southern Kosovo, officials said on Sunday, adding to more than 500 killed in snow and bitter cold across Europe in the past two weeks.
In Poland, the interior ministry said 20 people had died in the past 24 hours because of the freezing weather, bringing the toll there so far this year to at least 100. A spokeswoman said the latest victims froze to death or were suffocated or killed by fires due to defective or improvised heaters.
The Kosovo avalanche enveloped about 15 houses on Saturday but only two were occupied at the time.
One person was missing and a girl aged about six was found alive late on Saturday after residents and emergency services helped dig out the houses. She was taken to hospital.
"The number of dead people now is nine and we believe there is still one missing person," said Ibrahim Shala, a spokesperson from the Kosovo Security Force (KSF).
Temperatures have plummeted in parts of Europe close to minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) in the coldest February snap the region has seen in decades. Meteorologists say it could last till the end of the month.
In Kosovo, three people died and two children were injured on Thursday when a gas can that a family was using for heating exploded. Kosovo's government ordered schools to remain closed for another week with more snow expected. Police said many inhabited areas were completely cut off.
In neighbouring Montenegro the government imposed a state of emergency late on Saturday after snow blocked roads and railways across most of the country. Three people have died so far.
More than 50 people have been stranded on a train in Montenegro's north for more than two days as emergency crews struggle to rescue them. In the mountain town of Zabljak in Montenegro's north, snow was 2.3 metres deep, while authorities have banned all private traffic in the capital Podgorica, where snow is almost a metre (three feet) deep and more is forecast on Sunday.
In Serbia, which declared a state of emergency last week, 19 people have died in the cold snap so far. Economists said damage from the cold weather may cost the country more than 500 million euros ($660 million).
More than 2,000 industrial businesses have been idled to limit the strain on coal-fired power plants and hydropower plants, which were struggling because of the buildup of ice.
The government also ordered the closure of all schools and non-essential businesses until Feb. 20.
Port authorities for Serbian sections of the Danube, Sava and Tisa rivers halted navigation due to a heavy buildup of ice.