Outrage as French die of cold: Old Metro stations opened to homeless as record low temperatures throughout Europe kill the destitute and wreak traffic chaos

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The Independent Online
PARIS (Reuter, AFP) - The fate of six destitute Frenchmen, frozen to death on city streets in an unseasonal cold spell, prompted national remorse and triggered official action to help the homeless.

The Defence Ministry set up soup kitchens in Paris outside disused Metro stations opened to the homeless as news of the first deaths filtered out. A special brigade combed alleyways and construction sites, poking at cardboard sheeting and under heaps of rags in search of people.

Charity groups, which estimate France has up to 400,000 homeless, criticised the authorities' response. They said the government should long ago have provided sufficient housing for the homeless, jobless and drifters. A campaigner for the homeless, Abbe Pierre, attacked a bill that will increase penalties for squatters and their 'accomplices'.

In Clermont-Ferrand, central France, the mercury plummeted to -11.8C: it was the coldest 23 November night since records began. There were record low temperatures throughout Europe.

In Denmark, overnight snow remained on the ground for the first time in many years, causing traffic chaos. For the first time since 1987, Denmark's only ski resort, near Roskilde, opened to the public with real snow.

In Moscow, Rem Viakhirev, president of Gasprom, said the gas supply would be critical by February if the cold persisted.

In Germany, the body of a 50-year-old woman was found outside Dusseldorf University, the country's fourth victim of the cold this month.

(Photographs and map omitted)