BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Authorities dug out stranded residents as heavy snow blanketed Eastern Europe Wednesday and people struggled with travel delays, power outages and subzero temperatures. Homeless people and migrants were among those most at risk.
The recent cold snap has now been blamed for at least 73 deaths, and seen the lowest temperatures for decades in some parts.
Poland, the country hit hardest by the deep freeze, reported two more deaths Wednesday as havoc spread to many countries across the region.
Greece's navy sent a ship to the island of Lesbos to house some 500 refugees and migrants. A medical association on the island said conditions at the main camp there were "inhuman," with migrants in tents exposed to freezing temperatures.
Rights group Amnesty International urged the European Union and the Greek government to move migrants from the Greek islands to the mainland and launched an online petition.
Swaths of northern and eastern Bulgaria were paralyzed by snowdrifts that blocked roads and left 117 towns and villages without electricity. The main highway linking the capital Sofia with the Black Sea port of Burgas was closed.
Bulgarian soldiers used heavy machinery to clear major roads, rescue stranded people and supply remote villages with food and water. The energy ministry said that it had turned down emergency requests for power from neighbors Greece and Turkey to avoid the possibility of having to ration electricity for domestic customers.
In Kosovo, police said a homeless man was found dead, apparently from hypothermia, the second cold-related fatality reported in that country. As temperatures plummeted to minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 Fahrenheit), there were power outages in many areas. Meteorologists said it was the coldest weather since 1963.
Snow continued to cut off communities in southern Albania where the death toll since the cold snap began stood at nine, most of them homeless people. Army helicopters and emergency authorities were distributing aid to remote mountain areas, while military and civil heavy vehicles helped clear snowbound roads.
In Romania, blizzards closed more than 130 roads and caused huge delays and cancellations on the railways.
Thousands of commuters rode the Bucharest subway, while others walked on the streets as snow piled high on the sidewalks. Several people were seen skiing.
In Serbia, where six deaths were blamed on the recent cold, authorities evacuated 130 snowbound residents. Dozens of vehicles rescued people stuck in snowdrifts. In Bosnia, authorities said four elderly people had died of hypothermia since Jan. 2
Moldova border police temporarily closed seven border crossing points with Ukraine because of heavy snowfall.
Schools were closed in the worst-affected areas of Serbia and Romania and also on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Monika Scislowska, in Warsaw, Poland; Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia; Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania; Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Greece; Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo, Bosnia; Veselin Toshkov in Sofia, Bulgaria; and Dmitry Vlasov in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.