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Europe: Siberian Weather Hampers Transportation

Hamburg, 3 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Severe winter weather is hampering transport across Europe today as arctic temperatures continue to sweep the continent from Siberia. More than 200 deaths are now being blamed on the 11-day deep freeze stretching from Siberia to Spain.

The Associated Press reports that ice is now building up in the channel between the North and Baltic seas, closing Schleswig and other smaller harbors in northern Germany. Hydrofoil ferry service between Copenhagen and Malmoe in Sweden has been disrupted because of ice in the strait between the two cities. Since Monday, the Elbe River has been closed to inland navigation from Hamburg almost as far as the Czech-German border southeast of Dresden. Austrian officials say much of the Danube river also remains closed.

Meanwhile, about 12,000 rail passengers are stranded in southern France today. All train services between Lyon and the Mediterranean have been suspended while workers try to clear 10 centimeters of ice from rails and overhead power lines. Key highways in the region are also closed.

Forecasters say there is little reason to expect an improvement soon. The German Meteorological Service in Offenbach predicts more severe cold next week.

At least 40 deaths have been reported in both Romania and Poland, while 35 deaths have been reported in Germany, more than 20 in France, 11 in Bulgaria, and 8 in Austria. The Germany news agency DPA reports at least 10 weather-releated deaths in Moscow amid temperatures of 26 degrees below zero celsius.