Serbia: 11,000 trapped in remote villages by snow

By Monika Scislowska

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

In Ukraine, 63 people have died from the cold in the last week. Nearly 950 others were hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite, and more than 2,000 heated tents have been set up with hot food for the homeless.

In Italy's financial capital of Milan, officials said a homeless man died from exposure Thursday.

About 180 schools were closed in Romania because of the freezing cold. Three ships were blocked on the Danube River — one German, one Dutch and one Romanian — and efforts were made to unblock them from ice.

In Bulgaria, where 16 towns recorded their lowest temperatures since records started 100 years ago, 1,070 schools across the country remained closed Thursday and large sections of the Danube were frozen, hampering navigation. Some villages in Bosnia have had no electricity for days and crews were working around-the-clock trying to fix power lines.

Temperatures in parts of Germany were as low as minus 11 Celsius (12 Fahrenheit) Thursday afternoon. In the eastern city of Magdeburg, police said a 55-year-old homeless man who apparently had frozen to death was found Thursday morning.

While the weather has yet to cause any significant disruption in the country, ferry services across the mouth of the Elbe river in northern Germany were suspended due to ice on Thursday.

However, the cold wave wasn't causing hardship everywhere.

Dutch authorities banned boats from some of Amsterdam's canals and waterways in the hope the big freeze gripping the city would turn the still water to ice and allow residents to go skating. They also turned off mills and pumps that regulate water levels in the low-lying, flood-prone nation to improve the chances of canals freezing over.

Speed skating is a winter obsession in the Netherlands and hopes are high about the possibility of holding the Elfstedentocht — or "11 Town Tour" — skating race being staged for the first time since 1997.

The 200-kilometer (125-mile) tour route takes skaters over frozen canals and lakes linking 11 towns in the northern Netherlands. The tour, which is also a race for elite skaters, has only been staged 15 times since the first official event in 1909.

Monika Scislowska reported from Warsaw. Radul Radovanovic and Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alina Wolfe Murray in Bucharest, Romania, Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, Frances D'Emilio in Rome and Mike Corder in the Netherlands contributed to this report.

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