2012-12-20 09:50:34

Cold weather bites in Eastern Europe

Vatican Radio)Over 100 people have already died this month due to extreme winter weather crippling much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Most victims are said to be in Ukraine where officials reported over 60 deaths since early December.

Rescue workers try to save lives as snowfall of up to two meters has trapped hundreds of cars on motorways in western parts of Ukraine.

But rescue teams are struggling to get through, adding to fears the death toll will climb.

“We are running out of petrol," said a drivers who is among the many stranded on the road from Capital Kiev to border town Chop. "Petrol will last till the night, but I don’t know what will happen next. We might really freeze to death with our children,” he warned.

At least one woman reportedly gave birth to healthy twins while being stranded in her car. Unable to reach her, doctors instructed her husband via a mobile phone how to help his wife.

Authorities have set up hundreds of heated tents where people can get free hot drinks and first aid as temperatures plunged to -23 degrees Celsius.

But all those efforts have come too late for the dozens of people who already froze to death.

In February, when Ukraine went through its coldest winter in six years, over 130 people died of cold in the country of 45 million people.

Besides Ukraine, dozens of people are also known to have died elsewhere in the region, including in Poland, Czech Republic as well as Balkan nations Croatia and Serbia

In Hungary there is concern that homeless people will especially suffer this winter.

United Nations experts on extreme poverty and housing have therefore urged the government to uphold a recent Constitutional Court decision decriminalizing homelessness.

Hungary's center right government introduced controversial legislation that would enable police to fine, and even jail people who live on the streets.

Listen to this report by Stefan Bos: RealAudioMP3

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