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WEATHER

Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite as deep freeze persists

Europe's deep freeze, which has cost more than 60 lives over the past week, continued to wreak havoc early on Saturday as the shivering continent awaited a sliver of weekend respite from a brutal Siberian cold front.

Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite as deep freeze persists
Icicles hang on a bench in a bay in the village of Attersee, Austria on Wednesday. Photo: Wolfgang Spitzbart
After heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe, conditions marginally improved in some regions on Friday — although temperatures generally remained sub-zero, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at airports.
 
But Britain's Met Office said the Arctic temperatures were set to rise.
 
“After the extreme weather many of us have seen recently many will see conditions ease a little through the next few days,” it said.
 
In France, the forecast this weekend was for rain rather than the kind of heavy snowfall that has blanketed vast tracts of Europe.
 
The deadly chill has been caused by weather blowing in from Siberia. British media have dubbed the front “the Beast from the East,” while the Dutch have gone for the “Siberian Bear” and the Swedes plumped for the “Snow Cannon”.
 
Over the past week, the freezing conditions have claimed more than 60 lives, according to an AFP toll, including 23 in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic and five in Lithuania.  Other deaths were recorded in Spain, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
 
France has seen at least nine weather-related deaths, including four skiers killed by an avalanche on Friday in the Alps, which have seen particularly heavy snowfall. A 41-year-old Libyan man was found dead in an empty train carriage in the
western French town of Saintes. Police suspect he died of hypothermia, but could not be sure.
 
In Austria meanwhile, five migrants abandoned by smugglers were rescued from a motorway near the city of Graz on Friday, some of them walking barefoot in sub-zero temperatures, according to police.
 
Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to records of up to -40C (-40F) in the ongoing blizzard, which has even covered usually balmy Mediterranean beaches with a blanket of snow.
 
Geneva's busy airport announced it had re-opened shortly after midday Friday “despite the unfavourable meteorological conditions”, having warned earlier it faced staying shut for a second consecutive day as snowstorms continued to lash the Swiss city. Airport authorities warned, however, of further “delays and cancellations”.
 
Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures with a number of major roads blocked because of snow and black ice as forecasters warned the country's northern and central regions would see little immediate improvement. Many schools remained closed and local authorities told people to remain indoors unless they urgently needed to travel.
 
Elsewhere in Europe, Serbia and Croatia saw some improvement but two people died overnight in Poland as temperatures plunged to a low of -27C (-16.6F). They were set to remain as low as -17C across the day in some areas even as forecasters spoke of a relative weekend thaw.
 
Folldal, a small village in central Norway, saw a record European low for recent days of -42C during the night. Even so, residents used to harsh conditions were sanguine.
 
“Life is generally ongoing,” mayor Hilde Frankmo Tveren quipped to broadcaster TV2.

CLIMATE CRISIS

How 2022 compares to Europe’s hottest summers

In just over two decades, Europe has experienced its five hottest summers since 1500. As temperatures rise above 40C across Europe this week here's a look at the history of recent heatwaves that have hit the continent.

How 2022 compares to Europe's hottest summers

Europe’s increasingly frequent heatwaves are back under the spotlight over devastating wildfires and with sweltering temperatures forecast to hit record highs in Britain and France this week.

On Monday July 18th the European Commission warned that more than half of the EU territory was a risk of suffering a drought due to the lack of recent rainfall and the scorching temperatures.

2022: Double trouble

A heatwave engulfing western Europe, the second in a month, sparks huge wildfires and threatens to smash records in Britain and France.

Fires in France, Greece, Portugal and Spain force thousands of residents and tourists to flee and kill several people, including a Spanish shepherd and a firefighter.

Firefighters stand on a road as heavy smoke is seen in the background during forest fires near the city of Origne, south-western France, on July 17, 2022. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Britain braces for an all-time high of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or more. Brittany in France could also register similar temperatures in what would be a regional record.

The weather warnings come hot on the heels of a scorching spell in June, where parts of Europe, from Spain to Germany, sizzled at unseasonal highs of between 40C to 43C.

2021: Hottest ever

Last year is Europe’s hottest summer on record, according to the European climate change monitoring service Copernicus.

Between late July and early August 2021, Greece endures what Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis calls the country’s worst heatwave in over 30 years, with temperatures hitting 45C in some regions. In Spain, temperatures reach 47C in parts of the south, according to national weather agency AEMET.

A helicopter drops water as fires rage in Navalmoral de la Sierra near Avila at center of Spain on August 16, 2021. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

The heat and drought spark large wildfires along the Mediterranean, from Turkey and Greece to Italy and Spain.

2019: Northern Europe swelters

The summer of 2019 brings two heatwaves, which leave around 2,500 people dead, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters of Belgium’s Louvain University.

In France, temperatures hit a record 46C on June 28 in the southern town of Verargues. Thousands of schools are closed.

A picture taken on July 25, 2019 shows a board displayed in an office building and reading 41 Celsius in Stuttgart, as a new record high temperature was recorded in Germany, amid a Europe wide heatwave, breaking the previous hottest figure reached the previous day. (Photo by Marijan Murat / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT

On July 24 and 25, northern Europe fries in record heat. Temperatures of 42.6C are recorded at Lingen in northwestern Germany, 41.8C in Begijnendijk in northern Belgium and 38.7C in the eastern English city of Cambridge.

2018: Drought drains the Danube

The second half of July and beginning of August 2018 sees very high temperatures across much of Europe and rivers running dry due to drought.

The Danube falls to its lowest level in 100 years in some areas, notably exposing World War II tanks in Serbia that were submerged since the conflict.

Portugal and Spain suffer hugely destructive forest fires.

2017: Months of mugginess

Much of Europe, but especially the south, sweats from late June to well into August.

Spain set a record of 47.3C on July 13 in the southern town of Montoro.

Persistent drought sparks forest fires in Portugal.

2015: Back-to-back heatwaves

It’s heatwave after heatwave throughout the summer of 2015 which leaves an estimated 1,700 people dead in France.

In Britain, roads melt and trains are delayed in the hottest July on record, with temperatures reaching 36.7C at Heathrow airport.

2007: Greek forests ablaze

Central and southern Europe are parched by drought throughout June and July, provoking a spate of forest fires in Italy, North Macedonia and Serbia.

Locals use branches to estinguish a fire in Kato Kotyli village in central Peloponnese 30 August 2007. The fires that wrought a trail of destruction across Greece for a week were mostly under control as people counted the cost of a disaster that has claimed 63 lives. (Photo by Yiannis Dimitras / AFP)

In Hungary, 500 people die as a result of the heat.

2003: 70,000 dead

Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal all experience exceptional heat in the first half of August, with Portugal suffering a record 47.3C at Amareleja in the south.

An EU study of 16 nations puts the number of excess deaths across the bloc during the heatwave as high as 70,000, with France and Italy each seeing between 15,000 and 20,000 fatalities, according to various reports since.

The 2003 heatwave in France caused the deaths of many elderly people and led to a change in the government’s approach to dealing with heatwaves. PHOTO JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo by Jean-Philippe KSIAZEK / AFP)

In France, most of the victims are elderly people in an episode that traumatises the country and leads to the implementation of new systems of protection during heatwaves.

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