Tokyo caught in blizzards' grip: Britain's cold snap is nothing compared to the rest of the world. Simon Midgley reports

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WHILE arctic weather swept across Europe yesterday killing more than 14 people, Japan and the north-eastern United States were slowly recovering from even more ferocious blizzards at the weekend.

The worst snowfalls in Tokyo for 25 years left international flights grounded and the city's transport system paralysed on Sunday. The Hudson river in eastern New York state resembled an Arctic ice floe, while children and their sled-carrying parents thronged Central Park in New York City and cross-country skiers took to the Big Apple's snow-clogged side streets.

The storm left a foot of snow in Washington - the worst since a 1983 blizzard blanketed the capital with 18 inches.

Temperatures in Eastern Europe and Russia dived to near-record lows after several mild weeks. In Poland at least 13 people died when temperatures fell to -22F - several froze to death after drinking alcohol and two anglers died in an accident on a frozen lake. In Bosnia, children played in the snow along Sarajevo's notorious sniper alley and aid convoys were held up by heavy drifts. In Moscow night-time temperatures touched -31F.

At the Winter Olympics in the central Norwegian town of Lillehammer, the men's 30km cross-country ski race was almost postponed when temperatures on the course plunged to -18F three hours before the start. Minus -4F is the minimum temperature at which racing is permitted.

Temperatures in the Alps at about 6,500ft plummeted to -20C with a wind chill factor of -40F. Rain and sleet in Italy made operations dangerous for British and American squadrons preparing for possible air strikes around Sarajevo.

Heavy snow cut off about 3,300 villages in eastern and north-eastern Turkey with 3ft-deep drifts blocking roads. Motorists on the north-eastern Black Sea coast were being warned of landslides partially blocking roads.

City authorities in Paris opened the disused underground railway station of Saint Martin to shelter the homeless. Last year cold weather killed at least half a dozen homeless people in the city.

One lucky survivor of sub-zero temperatures was a French air force helicopter pilot who crashed into waters off Antarctica at the weekend. He was wearing a survival suit and was rescued by scientists looking for fish samples.

Dutch flower growers are worried that the icy winds could wipe out their daffodil and tulip crops - unusually mild weather has led to bulbs blooming early and making them vulnerable to freezing winds.