‘Beast from the East’ sends Arctic blast across Europe

The Arctic storm saw temperatures across Europe fall Monday and Tuesday to their lowest level this winter, and even brought a rare a snowstorm to Rome. (AP)
Updated 28 February 2018
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‘Beast from the East’ sends Arctic blast across Europe

PARIS: A blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe on Tuesday, causing headaches for travelers and leading to several deaths from exposure as snow carpeted palm-lined Mediterranean beaches.
The icy weather is in stark contrast to conditions in the Arctic itself, which is experiencing an “off-the-charts” heatwave this week, according to the European Geosciences Institute.
Meteorologists have documented temperatures above freezing in some parts of the Arctic, causing astonishment among many scientists. But to the south swathes of Europe were shivering under temperatures well below freezing, claiming at least 10 lives across the continent in a snap dubbed “the Beast from the East” by British tabloids.
At least five deaths were reported in Poland alone on Monday as the mercury dropped to minus 16 Celsius overnight in Warsaw.
That brought the number of Polish deaths from freezing to 53 since Nov. 1, and temperatures are expected to remain below minus 12 Celsius across the country Tuesday, with the cold accentuated by a biting wind.
In Lithuania, temperatures dropped to as low as minus 26 degrees Celsius overnight, and one suspected death of a man from freezing was reported in the capital Vilnius.
In Britain, authorities warned of five to 10 centimeters of snow on Tuesday and the likelihood of travel delays on roads, rail networks and at airports, while electricity and even mobile phone service may be cut in some areas.
On Monday, British Airways canceled more than 60 short-haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow airport.
Some of the iciest conditions were reported in Italy, where many schools and daycare centers were closed, to the consternation of parents already preparing for closures next week linked to this weekend’s general election.
Public anger was also growing over the disruptions to rail services across the country, as travelers learned that many track switches did not have defrosting equipment, meaning they had to be dug out by hand.
In Naples, the airport was closed early Tuesday and bus services in the city halted because of ice.
And a driver in Turin got a fright when a stalactite broke off from an overhead bridge and shattered his windshield — though he managed to keep control of his vehicle.
One of the coldest points overnight was at Glattalp in Switzerland, where the temperature fell to -38 Celsius — extreme even for the high-altitude area (1,850 meters), according to the ATS news agency.
In France, which has remained frigid but dry during the cold snap, forecasters warned of heavy snow across much of the country starting Wednesday — though spring-like temperatures would soon follow.
On Tuesday, residents of Ajaccio on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica woke up to some 15 centimeters of snow on the beach, something not seen since 1986.
At least three people have died during the cold snap in France.
Across the continent, authorities have been opening emergency shelters and increasing relief efforts for the homeless.
The mayor of Etterbeek in Belgium said those sleeping rough would be forcibly detained if they refused to go to shelters, citing the “major risk” from exposure to the cold.
In Berlin, rising fears for homeless people led officials to open an additional 100 beds, with the city’s shelters, now with a total of 1,200 beds, more than 90 percent full, RBB public radio reported.


Three of four engines on stricken Norway cruise ship restarted

Updated 24 March 2019
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Three of four engines on stricken Norway cruise ship restarted

  • The Viking Sky lost power and started drifting mid-afternoon Saturday about two kilometers off More og Romsdal in dangerous waters and high seas
  • The captain forced to send out a distress call and trigger a massive airlift operation

OSLO: A cruise ship that broke down in rough seas off the Norwegian coast with some 1,300 passengers and crew on board has restarted three of its four engines and will be towed to port, emergency services said Sunday.
“Three of the four engines are now working which means the boat can now make way on its own,” emergency services spokesman Per Fjeld said.
The Viking Sky lost power and started drifting mid-afternoon Saturday about two kilometers (1.2 miles) off More og Romsdal in dangerous waters and high seas, prompting the captain to send out a distress call and trigger a massive airlift operation.
The airlift was continuing in the early morning, Fjeld said.
Police said 338 of the 1,373 people on board the Viking Sky had so far been taken off by helicopter.
The vessel is making slow headway at two to three knots (4-5 kilometers) an hour off the dangerous, rocky coast and a tug will help it toward the port of Molde, about 500 kilometers northwest of Oslo, officials said.
Police said that 17 people had been taken to hospital.
The passengers are mostly British or American, they added.