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Europe: Severe Cold Claims More Lives

Prague, 30 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - The death toll across Europe continues to rise as the freezing weather continues.

In Romania at least 20 people are reported to have died, most of them homeless or elderly. The Romanian government has asked police to arrange shelter for the homeless in hospitals and metro stations.

In Bulgaria, the death toll has hit 19, including a couple and their child who froze to death after their car got stuck in snowdrifts near Varna. Hungary and the Czech republic have each reported a spate of deaths, and in Poland a total of 17 people, mostly homeless or drunks, have died, inlcuding five overnight.

Russia is also suffering, with rescue workers reported struggling to clear a major highway in the southern Caucasus region, where dozens of people remain trapped by avalanches.

The weather has also hit Western and Southern Europe. Temperatures in northern Italy stayed down at minus 30 celsius. In Germany, the Lufthansa airline cancelled 40 flights from Frankfurt because of snowbound runways. No early easing of the cold snap is expected.