‘Beast from the East’ keeps Europe in deep freeze

Traffic in the snow on the A9 motorway near Montpellier in the south of France. (AFP)
Updated 01 March 2018
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‘Beast from the East’ keeps Europe in deep freeze

PARIS: Countries across Europe shut schools and rushed to shelter homeless people on Wednesday as a deadly blast of Siberian weather dubbed the “Beast from the East” kept the mercury far below zero.
The death toll rose to at least 42 since Friday as the brutal cold claimed its first victim in Serbia, a 75-year-old man whose body was found in a field two days after he went missing from the southern village of Malosista, state television reported.
The victims also include 18 people in Poland, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four each in France and Slovakia, and two each in Italy and Romania.
Homeless people account for many of the dead, and cities across Europe have been racing to open emergency shelters to protect people sleeping rough.
In Germany, the national homeless association urged shelters to open during the day and not just at night.
“You can die of cold during the day too,” its chief Werena Rosenke warned.
Authorities are also urging people to look out for elderly relatives and neighbors after a French woman in her 90s was found frozen to death outside her retirement home.
In Paris, some 50 regional lawmakers were to spend Wednesday night on the streets to protest the “denial of dignity” suffered by those without roofs over their heads.
And in the northern port of Calais, authorities were launching emergency plans to shelter migrants who camp out near the coast hoping to stow away on trucks bound for Britain.
Schools were shut across Kosovo, western Bosnia and much of Albania, as well as parts of Britain, Italy and Portugal.
Temperatures again plunged below -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) overnight in numerous parts of Europe — even hitting -36C in Glattalp, 1,850 meters above sea level in the Swiss mountains.
Ahead of a predicted thaw toward the end of the week, both Belgium and Switzerland marked their coldest night of the winter so far.
And in the usually balmy south of France, residents in Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz were heading out with skis to zoom down the snowy streets of what are usually beach resorts.
Europe’s cold snap comes as the Arctic experiences record-high temperatures, prompting scientists to ask if global warming may be playing a role in turning things upside down.
Dubbed the “Siberian bear” by the Dutch and the “snow cannon” by Swedes, the icy blast has played havoc with transport networks.
Swedish authorities urged drivers in parts of the south to leave their cars at home, while British Airways was running a reduced service from London Heathrow on Wednesday.
In Ireland, anxious residents were hoarding bread and milk ahead of the arrival of a storm Thursday which is expected to cause the heaviest snowfall in decades.
“It’s fair to say the people of Ferrybank and Slieverue are taking the #Beastfromtheeast serious,” said one Twitter post alongside a picture of empty supermarket shelves.
Kosovo announced restrictions on electricity usage lasting between one and three hours, due to a surge in power consumption mirrored across Europe as people turn up the thermostat.
In the Netherlands, Amsterdam residents are hoping to be able to skate on the city’s famed canals this weekend, with some areas already closed to boats to allow the ice to solidify.
Even professionals are feeling the chill.
In Amstetten in northwest Austria which is hosting international championships for ice stock — a sport similar to curling — organizers moved the opening ceremony inside due to the cold.
Austrians were reserving particular sympathy for Ludwig Rasser and Norbert Daxbacher, two employees at the Sonnblick weather station 3,109 meters above sea level.
Handed the honor of having the “coldest job in Austria” by the Oesterreich tabloid, Rasser and Daxbacher are charged with heading out to measure the temperature three times a day.
The process takes an hour in temperatures of -32C, which “with the windchill feels like -60,” Rasser said.


Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

Updated 4 min 12 sec ago
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Millions of women still landless despite global push for equality

  • Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind
WASHINGTON: Millions of women worldwide are still unable to access and own land despite laws recognizing their rights, researchers and campaigners said on Monday as they urged countries to bridge the gap between policy and practice.
Patriarchal attitudes toward women and girls and a lack of knowledge of their own rights “prevent millions of women from owning land,” said Victoria Stanley, senior rural development specialist at the World Bank.
“Only 30 percent of the world’s population own land titles, and women are often the least likely to have any land registered,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a World Bank conference in Washington, D.C.
“Stand for her land,” a campaign launched on Monday by the World Bank and advocacy groups including Landesa and Habitat for Humanity International, aims to change that by promoting better implementation of land laws for women.
Globally, more than 400 million women farm, yet only about 15 percent of farmland is owned by women, according to Landesa.
That inequality exposes women to all manner of rights abuses, rights activists say.
Throughout rural areas in Zimbabwe, for example, widows routinely find themselves harassed and exploited by in-laws claiming the property their husbands left behind.
Although Zimbabwe’s constitution gives women and men equal rights to property and land, in many rural communities tradition overrides national legislation, experts say.
Godfrey Massey of Landesa Tanzania said the existence of laws in itself does not necessarily translate into better access to land for women.
“Women can own land just as men, but few women are aware of this in Tanzania,” he said, calling for more initiatives at the community level to raise awareness of land rights.
“We’ve seen trainings lead to a rise in women joining village land councils or realizing that their husband can’t mortgage the family land without their consent,” he said.
Rajan Samuel of Habitat for Humanity India said that efforts to improve land rights must acknowledge cultural norms like India’s centuries-old Hindu caste system.
“You can have all the policies in the world, if you don’t engage the community from day one you won’t succeed,” he said.