Death toll across the continent due to extreme weather reaches 460
By Graham Smith
Last updated at 6:26 PM on 10th February 2012
Every driver dreads having to de-ice his car on winter mornings, but the owner of this vehicle really has his work cut out.
Parked on the frozen waterside promenade at Lake Geneva in Versoix, Switzerland, the Audi hatchback looks like it has been sprayed from top to bottom with ice.
The incredible image highlights just how vicious the cold snap gripping Europe is.
The death toll across the continent due to the bout of extreme weather has reached more than 460.
It caused a unique problem for police in Brussels today.
Dealing with a strike by firemen protesting austerity measures, the officers were doused with a fire hose during the demonstration.
But they didn’t remain soaked for long – so cold was the temperature that their riot shields were instantly iced over.
Freezing temperatures and heavy snow in Turkey, meanwhile, are making life miserable for the more than 140,000 residents who were left homeless by the nation’s devastating earthquake four months ago.
The cold snap has left some families in Turkey’s quake relief centres trying to stay warm by using coal stoves or electric heaters, and watching their drinking water freeze overnight.
Nearly a foot of snow has fallen in the quake zone, and temperatures have dipped as low as -20C.
Elsewhere in Europe the situation has been much worse, with hundreds of people – most them homeless – dying in the cold, and many cities and towns being trapped by much deeper snow.
In Romania, officials on Friday reported 13 more deaths and rounded up about 220 homeless to shelter them from the deep freeze at night.
Huge chunks of ice were blocking navigation on the Danube River in Romania, one of Europe’s key waterways.
In October, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake and a powerful aftershock flattened some 2,000 buildings and killed 644 people around the city of Van, a provincial capital in south-eastern Turkey.
The government responded by moving 134,000 people to temporary homes and 7,500 others to tents.
At one of the camps on Friday, Gonul Meral, 33, who is living in a tent with her two children and her unemployed husband, said: ‘I am doing the dishes now, but the water in the basin is frozen so I have to heat it up again. It’s so hard.’
The house that she and her family were renting before the disaster was destroyed by the quake.
Ragtag encampments have also sprung up in empty patches of ground in the quake zone, in the courtyards of houses, and even on the median strips of motorways. These people say they prefer to stay close to their property to guard it, even if their life is tougher than it would be in the relief centres.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said one reason the quakes killed so many people was the shoddy construction work on the homes that collapsed, comparing the negligence of builders to murder.
Some of the survivors in tents are now placing plastic sheeting over their shelters to try to stay as warm as possible.