Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Big freeze death toll rises again in eastern Europe


The death toll from the weather in eastern Europe has risen to 133, while some 11,000 villagers are stranded in mountainous areas of Serbia.

Many tourism hotspots in Europe are experiencing low temperatures, with minus 14C (6.8F) in Berlin, minus 17C (1.4F) in Prague, minus 8C (17.6F) in Paris, minus 13C (8.6F) in Stockholm and minus 20C (minus 4F) in Warsaw.

Serbia, Ukraine and Poland all recorded fatalities as the mercury sank as low as minus 32.5C (minus 26.5F).

Parts of the Black Sea froze near the Romanian coastline, while in Bulgaria a number of towns recorded their lowest temperatures since records began a century ago.

The Polish government said its victims were mostly homeless people under the influence of alcohol who were seeking shelter in cold buildings.

In Ukraine 63 people have died from the freezing conditions over the past week, and nearly 950 have received hospital treatment for hypothermia and frostbite. The death toll in Serbia stands at five.

Dr Milorad Dramacanin, who took part in helicopter evacuations in central Serbia, said: "The situation is dramatic, the snow is up to five metres high in some areas, you can only see rooftops."

Up to 300 people are stranded in Bosnia, with choppers supplying food and medication.

Goran Milat, who is one of those residents cut off, said: "We are thankful for this help. But the snow did what it did and we are blocked here until spring."

The conditions also forced the closure of the airport in Montenegro's capital city Podgorica.

In Italy the harsh conditions led to several Serie A football matches being postponed, with further games at risk.

News agency Ansa reported that officials in Rome are preparing emergency relief measures in case of snow later this week.

Meanwhile the US has enjoyed a very mild winter, with unseasonably warm temperatures and a lack of snow.

Pennsylvania's famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter earlier today in his annual appearance in the spotlight.

But the fact that he saw his shadow - the determining factor on whether he believes winter will continue or spring will arrive shortly - will not be greeted with too much despair as the unseasonably warm season has brought few cold days to the east of the country.