BUCHAREST, Romania – Authorities dug out stranded residents as heavy snow blanketed Eastern Europe Wednesday as people struggled with travel delays, power outages and sub-zero temperatures. Homeless people and migrants were among those most at risk.
The recent cold snap has now been blamed for at least 66 deaths, and seen the lowest temperatures for decades in some parts.
Poland, the country hit hardest by the deep freeze, reported two more deaths Wednesday as havoc spread to many countries across the region.
Greece's navy sent a ship to the island of Lesbos to house some 500 refugees and migrants. A medical association on the island said conditions at the main camp there were "inhuman" with migrants in tents exposed to freezing temperatures.
Swathes of northern and eastern Bulgaria were paralyzed by snowdrifts that blocked roads and left 117 towns and villages without electricity. The main highway linking the capital Sofia with the Black Sea port of Burgas was closed.
Bulgarian soldiers used heavy machinery to clear major roads, rescue stranded people and supply remote villages with food and water. The energy ministry said that it had turned down emergency requests for power from neighbors Greece and Turkey to avoid the possibility of having to ration electricity for domestic customers.
In Kosovo, police said a homeless man was found dead, apparently from hypothermia, the second cold-related fatality reported in that country.
As temperatures plummeted to -25 Celsius (-13 Fahrenheit), there were power outages in many areas. Meteorologists said it was the coldest weather since 1963, when the eastern city of Gjilan recorded a low of -32.5 Celsius.
Snow continued to cut off communities in southern Albania where the death toll stood at five, most of them homeless people. Army helicopters and emergency authorities were distributing aid to remote mountain areas, while military and civil heavy vehicles helped clear snowbound roads in the coldest weather since 1985.
In Romania, blizzards closed more than 130 roads and caused huge delays and cancellations on the railways.
Thousands of commuters rode the Bucharest subway, while others walked on the streets as snow piled high on the sidewalks. Several people were seen skiing.
In Serbia, where six deaths were blamed on the recent cold, authorities evacuated 130 snowbound residents. Dozens of vehicles rescued people stuck in snowdrifts.
Schools were closed in the worst-affected areas of Serbia and Romania and also on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Monika Scislowska, in Warsaw, Poland and Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece and Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria contributed to this report.