Cold kills 33 more in Europe, dam breaks in Bulgaria

SOFIA Mon Feb 6, 2012 10:01am EST

A woman cleans her frosted vehicle in Bucharest, February 5, 2012.  REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

A woman cleans her frosted vehicle in Bucharest, February 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Radu Sigheti

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Europe's bitterly cold weather killed another 33 people on Monday and melting snow caused a dam wall to break and flood an entire village in Bulgaria.

Gas supplies to the European Union from Russia improved at the weekend but have not fully recovered, the European Commission said, as Italy convened a crisis committee to handle what it called critical shortages of Russian gas.

The dam wall broke and flooded the village in southern Bulgaria following heavy rain and snow melting. Four people drowned and more than 50 were evacuated, the Interior Ministry said. Four more people died when their cars were swept away by high waters.

"There are demolished houses and people in distress," the ministry said in a statement.

Bulgaria warned neighboring Greece and Turkey that two other dams were expected to overflow later on Monday.

The cold snap has killed hundreds of people in Europe.

Nine died over the past 24 hours in Poland, bringing the total to 62 since the end of January. Temperatures fell to minus 24 Celsius at night in northeastern parts of the country.

In Croatia's Dalmatia region, more than 100 villages were cut off by snow in the hinterland of the Adriatic coast, the emergency service centre said, and more snow was forecast.

Rescuers reached some of the Dalmatian villages on Sunday.

In one village, a woman gave birth in her house with the help of a neighbor, while a midwife from a nearby town gave them instructions by telephone.

"The baby girl is fine and beautiful and I'll probably name her Snow White, given the circumstances," the mother, Marta Glavota, told 24sata news website.

Ten people have died in Serbia so far, Montenegro reported its second death and Croatia said four people had died.

In Serbia, where 11,000 people remain cut off and a state of emergency has been declared, temperatures were forecast to stay below zero until mid-February.

Bosnia was paralyzed for the fourth day with snow blocking cities. Helicopters were delivering baby food and aid packages to isolated villages in eastern parts.

Farmers were having problems feeding cattle and the president of Bosnia's farmers association, Vladimir Usorac, said milk production has dropped by 15 to 30 percent in the country.

"People are trying to get through and feed the cattle. It's very difficult because of 2-metre snow and even 5-metre snow drifts so there is no access to cattle feed," he said.

Bosnia recorded on Monday its eighth victim, after an 87-year- old woman died of hypothermia.

DUTCH SKATE

But in The Netherlands, suffering its coldest spell in 15 years, the snow was good news for some.

Ice skaters swarmed onto frozen ponds and canals and National television broadcaster NOS on Monday launched the daily "Ice News" to report about skating conditions.

Skaters were hoping for the right conditions to hold the Elfstedentocht - the famous Dutch "Eleven Cities Tour" which is a 200-km race on natural ice - for the first time since 1997.

In the Czech Republic, temperatures of minus 39.4C were recorded in the southwest along the German border. Meteorologists expect temperatures to fall more overnight.

At least 20 people have died in the Czech Republic, after two homeless people were reported dead overnight.

A burst pipe temporarily shut down an important western rail corridor between Prague and the German border town of Cheb.

The cold weather has increased demand for gas, and the European Commission said on Monday Bulgaria, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Greece were now receiving normal import levels, while supplies to Romania, Germany and Italy were increasing, but were not yet fully restored.

"It has become better over the weekend. We are in close contact with the member states," EU energy spokeswoman Marlene Holzner told a regular briefing.

The Commission says the situation does not constitute a crisis, with countries being able to meet their needs using storage facilities and other market measures.

In Italy, where demand reached all-time highs following a sixth straight day of curtailed supply from Russia, Italian Industry Minister Corrado Passera described the situation as "critical."

Russia's Gazprom said on Saturday it had brought supplies to European countries back to normal after lowering them "for a few days," but was unable to meet increased demand.

Unlike previous politically sensitive cutoffs of Russian gas, the six-day long reduction in supply to Europe stems from cold weather in Russia that has increased its domestic demand.

(Reporting by European Bureau; Writing by Diana Abdallah)

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