Eastern Europe: Cold Spell Freezes the Danube and Black Sea, Hundreds Die of Hypothermia

  on February 09 2012 11:41 AM

Boats
Boats on the Danube near Belgrade in the partially-frozen waters. Source: Reuters

As the European cold front is about to enter its third week, the Danube River and Black Sea have frozen over in many countries, with La Repubblica reporting that 420 have died across Europe.

The Bulgarian section of the Danube was closed to ships on Wednesday, with officials reporting that between 50 and 90 percent of the river along their territory was frozen. In Romania the river was completely frozen over for hundreds of kilometers, and along Serbia's 600 km stretch, ships were holed up in ports, where they will remain for over a week, according to Serbia's deputy infrastructure minister. Other countries along the Danube, from the river's Black Sea mouth to Austria, were all reporting shipping disruptions.

The Black Sea waters around the Ukrainian port city of Odessa were completely frozen for the first time since 1977, and Ukrainian ports will remain closed until at least Feb. 15. Russia's Novorossiysk port, usually an ice-free port all year round, was closed for two days last week because of ice. In the Romanian Black Sea port of Constan?a, the waters were frozen for up to 400 meters from the harbor.

In Ukraine, the hardest-hit country where over a hundred have died in the past two weeks from the cold, Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga said that nine out of ten of the deaths were alcohol-related, as homeless Ukrainians drank so much that they couldn't feel the cold and froze to death.

In the Netherlands, where conditions were not as dire, residents took the opportunity to ice skate (and even dine!) on the country's many frozen rivers and canals.

Meteorologists have warned that the cold weather blowing in from northern Russia may last throughout the month, with The Weather Channel's Leon Brown telling Reuters that February will probably remain a cold month right to the end.

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