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Europeans struggle under record cold snap

By Jovana Gec

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 6 2012 9:45 a.m. MST

In Poland, the Interior Ministry reported Monday that nine people died of hypothermia over the past 24 hours. Two elderly people were found frozen in Serbia and Bosnia, and Croatia reported 4 snow-related deaths.

Ukraine's Emergency Situation Ministry said Monday the country's death toll now stands at 135, including many homeless people. Some 2,000 have been hospitalized for frostbite or hypothermia, it said.

Officials in Bulgaria have declared a state of emergency in much of the south. Civil defense chief Nikolai Nikolov said a 2.5-meter (8-foot) flood hit 700 houses in the village of Bisser, near the Greek border, after the dam on the Ivanovo reservoir collapsed.

Bulgarian civil defense officials warned that two other bigger dams in the region, Ivaylovgrad and Studena, are on the brink of overflowing and urged people there to be ready for an evacuation.

In the Netherlands, however, Europe's deep freeze means the country's almost mythical "Eleven Cities Tour" ice skating marathon could be staged later this month for the first time in 15 years, organizers said Monday.

The race, held along a 125-mile (200-kilometer) network of canals connecting 11 towns and cities in Friesland province, would cause a national frenzy, drawing thousands of participants and more than a million spectators. It was last held in 1997.

Also in the Netherlands, a man tried to take advantage of the weather and toss a snowball with a package of marijuana in it over the wall of a prison. The snowball crumbled and the man was arrested in The Hague, police said Monday.

The national weather service forecasts freezing temperatures at least through Friday, fueling hopes that the ice race would go ahead.

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Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Mike Corder in Amsterdam, Maria Danilova in Kiev, Ukraine, Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Vanessa Gera and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.

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