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Dozens killed in Poland's rough winter

A fisherman sits on the frozen Vistula River in Warsaw, Poland, as a cold-snap kills dozens - AP

A fisherman sits on the frozen Vistula River in Warsaw, Poland, as a cold-snap kills dozens - AP

05/01/2016 18:44

(Vatican Radio)  Winter weather in the Balkans and Eastern Europe has already killed dozens of people, most of them in Poland, which is experiencing one of the country's deadliest cold-snaps ever. 

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Polish authorities are anxiously watching frozen rivers and icy roads. Officials say dozens of people have already died of hypothermia, including many homeless people sleeping in makeshift shelters, while have been fallen to their deaths in the mountains in sub-freezing temperatures.

The spokeswoman of the government's center for national security, Anna Adamkiewicz said many died over the weekend. "Unfortunately since November 1, 39 people have died because of the cold in Poland. This weekend was the most tragic as temperatures dropped in some places to minus 24 degrees celsius. Saturday and Sunday, 21 people have died," she said.     

Later Tuesday the deathtoll had already risen to more than 40. 

Police have urged residents of the European Union country of 38 million to keep an eye out for anyone running the risk of hypothermia, especially the homeless, or the elderly.

Polish aid

Polish aidworker Jerzu Drusk of the 'alter-ego' charity is rushing to help at least some of them. "Everyday I prepare about 35 meals with two dishes each," he said. "And we have enough soup to feed about 100 people." 

That's good news for Krzysztof Szuba who has been homeless for the past sixteen years. "I come here not to die of cold and am here maybe three or four times a week," he explained 

Tourists are suffering as well. Rescuers say that at least six tourists have slipped and fallen to their deaths since Christmas Day while trekking on in Poland's Tatra Mouintains. And seven others reportedly died in falls in the Slovak part of the Tatras.

Besides Poland and Slovakia other East European countries are struggling. In Budapest, where many homeless people seek shelter, workers are struggling to clean the streets of snow. And massive traffic chaos and train disruptions have been reported across the country. 

Yet, in the Balkans bitter cold, biting winds and rough winter have done little to stem the seemingly endless flow of desperate people fleeing war or poverty for Europe. As 2016 dawns, boatloads continue to reach Greek shores and thousands trudge across Balkan fields and country roads heading north towards Western Europe.

05/01/2016 18:44