Rome: Hundreds of people were plucked to
safety on Saturday after a ferry caught in a snow storm ran aground
off Italy, as a vicious cold snap that has claimed over 250
lives across Europe refused to ease its clench.
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 degrees Celsius
(minus 36.5 Fahrenheit) in parts of the continent.
Some airports were shut, flights and trains were delayed,
and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear
the falling snow.
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 Shardon ferry ran aground shortly after
setting off from Civitavecchia port 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, was caused 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. Heavy snowfalls in Rome caused the capital
better known for its warm sunshine to grind to a halt. Parts
of the Venice lagoon also froze over.
In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures
reached minus 27 Celsius in the north-east.
Snow fell in Bosnia for the second straight day,
paralysing traffic, with one patient dying as the ambulance
was unable to reach his village in the south of the country.
Public transport was disrupted in Sarajevo, with several
tramlines blocked by snow since Friday evening.
Even Croatian and Serbian Presidents Ivo Josipovic and
Boris Tadic were forced to postpone their departure from
Friday`s regional meeting, as they were blocked in the ski
centre Jahorina, near Sarajevo.
"I can only leave the house if I dig a tunnel with a
showel, my car has become a mountain of snow," IT worker Eldar
Hajdarevic said on phone.