By JR on Tuesday, February 14, 2012
You would be forgiven for thinking these stunning vistas lay deep in the heart of Antarctica. But they are, in fact, what has become of the European landscape as temperatures plummet to nearly -40C - the coldest snap in decades. Rivers, lakes, beaches and even seas have been iced over by a Siberian freeze, creating some incredible sights, but also more tales of tragedy.
Frozen river Neckar in Southern Germany -- more pix at link
Thousands enjoyed a day out on the frozen Lake Pfaeffikersee, near Zurich, Switzerland, today, while ice anglers looked more like Eskimos as they braved the conditions on a Polish reservoir.
But in southern Kosovo, nine people were killed when an avalanche hit the village of Restelica, officials said on Sunday, adding to more than 500 killed in snow and bitter cold across the Continent 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.
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.
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.
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 February 20.
Port authorities for Serbian sections of the Danube, Sava and Tisa rivers halted navigation due to a heavy buildup of ice.
For the first time in decades, parts of the Black Sea has frozen near its shores, while the Kerch Strait that links the Azov Sea and the Black Sea has been closed to navigation.