Snow from Europe's cold snap buries Bosnia
Bosnian men shovel deep snow to clear the path for pedestrians, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (AP / Amel Emric)
Published Saturday, February 4, 2012 7:29PM EST
SARAJEVO - Bosnia's government declared a state of emergency in its capital on Saturday after Sarajevo was paralyzed by snow, while in Rome residents dug out from the city's biggest snowfall in 26 years, which shut down the Colosseum.
The weeklong cold snap -- the worst in decades in Eastern Europe -- has killed at least 176 people, many of them homeless, especially in countries such as Ukraine.
In Rome, unusually heavy snow capped the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and the Roman Forum's ancient arches. It toppled trees, sending some crashing onto empty parked cars. Up to 8 inches (20 centimetres) had fallen in some neighbourhoods, making buses and taxis scarce and stranding some motorists for hours.
About 4,000 government-issued shovels were handed out in several main piazzas to Romans trying to clear their streets before a forecast nighttime freeze.
In Sarajevo, more than three feet (one meter) of snow fell on Saturday, closing roads and public transportation.
Some neighbourhoods reported water shortages, and residents struggled to make it to local shops to shore up on food. Several people said they witnessed fist fights in shops over loaves of bread.
But the crisis also produced camaraderie.
In one area of central Sarajevo, men shovelling the deep snow were being given tea, coffee and hamburgers and meatballs that local women had barbecued. One elderly man who didn't know how to help out stood at an open window of his house playing his clarinet.
Schools have been closed in Bosnia for days because of the tough winter weather, and many travellers have been trapped on the country's roads since Friday evening.
"This is unbelievable. I can't remember snow like this in the past 30 years, said Mirsada Mitrovic, a resident of Sarajevo. "Maybe when I was a child, but since then nothing like this."
The state of emergency order said all schools must remain closed in Sarajevo, that women and children should stay at home, and that men should only report to work if their jobs are essential. It also ordered men who own shovels or vehicles big enough to plow snow to help the city clear the streets, especially ones leading to hospitals.
Meanwhile, efforts were under way to rescue hundreds of people trapped on snow-covered highways.
For example, in a tunnel south of Sarajevo, vehicles carrying about 30 people were stuck in a tunnel and called local radio stations to appeal for help, saying they had children with them and were running out of fuel. But when snow plows arrived on the scene, they also got stuck Saturday, officials said.
In neighbouring Montenegro, a three-day snowstorm that has closed roads and the main airport in the capital, Podgorica, claimed its first victim: a 54-year-old man who died when an avalanche hit his car on a road near the town of Kolasin.
Even top government officials were waylaid.
The presidents of Serbia and Croatia, who had attended a summit at a ski resort near Sarajevo on Friday, were unable able to immediately leave the mountain after the meeting.
Officials in Serbia said around 60,000 people throughout the country remain cut off by the snow. Seven people have died so far and one is missing, while 23 people have been rescued in the past 24 hours, said Serbian emergency police official Predrag Maric.
In Croatia, authorities in a strip along the Adriatic coast declared emergency measures and urged the army's help in clearing up a rare snowfall. Croatian authorities said three people have died in the freeze.
But the brutal winter weather didn't stop everyone.
In Moscow, where temperatures sank to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius), tens of thousands of people held another massive anti-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rally on Saturday.
On Saturday, Ukraine's Emergency Ministry said 122 people have died there over the past eight days, including 78 homeless people found on city streets. Nearly 1,600 other residents have been hospitalized with hypothermia and frostbite. Snow and temperatures hovering around 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius) prompted authorities to close schools and colleges, and to cancel bus services.
In Montenegro, police said that more than 100 people, including children on a school trip, were evacuated from the roads blocked by snow and taken to a shelter near Podgorica.
Early Saturday, rescuers reached a minibus with 11 passengers that was trapped for several hours by an avalanche in the Tara River canyon of Montenegro. They were later evacuated by boats over a nearby artificial lake as the roads remained blocked.
With rail services at a standstill across the small nation, Montenegro's government said it plans to hold an emergency session to discuss ways of coping with the cold snap.
In Austria, temperatures in the western city of Salzburg hovered around 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 Celsius) on Saturday, and a technical problem at a power plant left 10,000 households without heating on Saturday, Austrian news agency APA reported.
Germany recorded the coldest night of the year, with the thermometer plunging to -16 Fahrenheit (-27 Celsius) in the southern town of Oberstdorf, according to the German Weather Service.
The tough winter weather also has hit cities in southern Europe such as Rome, where snowfalls are rare.
Children, meanwhile, enjoyed another day off school.
Northern Italians continued to dig out from up more than 6 feet (2 metres) of snow and shiver in frigid temperatures. The farm lobby Coldiretti said that 2 million cows and pigs were at risk because supplies of feed couldn't reach them and some frozen pipes for water troughs had burst.