14 Jan 2017

Big chill continues to grip Europe

4:42 pm on 14 January 2017

Much of Europe continues to be hit by icy weather with strong winds and powerful storms causing traffic chaos, power cuts and travel delays.

Frozen bridges, small fishing boats and stones on the coast near the Black sea town of Varna, Bulgaria, Jan. 08, 2017.

Frozen bridges near the Black sea town of Varna, Bulgaria. Photo: AFP

Electricity supplies to nearly 350,000 homes in France were temporarily cut, while severe flood warnings are in place on England's east coast.

As Germany prepares for more heavy snow, forecasters say the worst of the weather is heading eastwards.

Freezing conditions continue in the Balkans and Turkey.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the cold weather was responsible for countless road accidents and school closures in addition to cancelled flights.

It also warned about the impact of the cold weather on the homeless and migrants.

Officials are especially worried about the plight of these groups of people in Greece and Serbia.

Thousands of migrants in the Balkans live in tents with little heating.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, earlier said several migrants had died from cold and exhaustion in Bulgaria.

Some countries are suffering some of the heaviest snowfall in many years, with the Danube river and Bosporus sea strait closed to shipping.

"Montenegro, Serbia, the republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria were much colder than normal, with temperatures as low as -15°C over five consecutive days," the WMO said.

"The surrounding countries - Italy, Greece, Turkey and Romania were 5° to 10° colder than normal for the time of year."

The Severe Weather Europe Facebook page has images of vehicles enveloped by snow in Hungary, cars abandoned on the side of the road because of freezing rain in Italy, treacherously high seas in the Faroe Islands and video of a powerful blizzard in the Swiss Alps.

In France, where coastal winds reached 146km/h, a woman died when a tree was blown over near the Mediterranean resort of Nice.

Another woman in Albania was found dead outside her home in freezing conditions in the southern town of Saranda.

Drivers in Germany have been warned of treacherous conditions on some roads, because of snow and black ice. Three motorists have died in crashes in Bavaria.

Meanwhile, flood defences have been reinforced on Belgium's coast.

The cold snap across Europe has claimed more than 65 lives.