A man touches an ice covered car on the iced waterside promenade at the Lake Geneva in Versoix, Switzerland, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. A cold spell has reached Europe with temperatures plummeting far below zero. AP Photo Feb 4, 2012
ROME: Hundreds of people were plucked to safety on Saturday after a ferry caught in a snow storm hit a breakwater off Italy, as a vicious cold snap that has claimed over 260 lives across Europe maintained its grip.
Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll of 122 deaths, including many people who froze to death in the streets, as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 38.1°C in parts of the continent.
Bosnian authorities have declared state of emergency in the capital Sarajevo after it was paralysed by snow, while hundreds of people remain trapped in their homes and vehicles throughout the country.
Airports were shut, flights and trains delayed, and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear the falling snow.
- Europe cold snap claims 260 lives
- Ukraine death toll from cold rises to 122
- The Big Chill: Europe gripped by coldest weather in decades
But as Europe huddled indoors for warmth, Russian gas giant Gazprom said it could not satisfy western Europe’s demand for more energy.
In Italy, the ferry Sharden hit a mole shortly after setting off from the port of Civitavecchia near Rome, causing panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month which killed 32 people.
Coastguard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25-metre hole in the ship’s side above the waterline, happened after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.
All passengers were evacuated to safety and no injuries were reported.
The heaviest snowfall in 27 years in Rome caused the capital better known for its warm sunshine to grind to a halt, with taxis and buses unable to navigate through the icy streets without snow chains. Parts of the Venice lagoon also froze over.
A 46-year-old woman died in Avellino, near Naples in southern Italy, after a greenhouse roof collapsed on top of her with the weight of snow and the ambulance failed to get through the blocked roads to her in time.
In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures reached minus 27°C in the north-east. In Romania, four more victims were found, bringing the number of fatalities in the country to 28.