Coldest winter in a quarter of a century grips Russia |

Coldest winter in a quarter of a century grips Russia

MOSCOW – Russia’s severest cold in a quarter of a century, with temperatures in Moscow at minus 8 Saturday, has killed at least 40 people and strained the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, with residents piling on the blankets and heating bricks to keep warm.The big freeze extended to neighboring countries, killing four people in Estonia, one in Moldova and knocking out power and delaying trains in Poland.In Moscow, rescue workers found five homeless or drunk people dead, the city emergency medical service said, bringing the number of deaths to more than 20 in the capital during the six-day cold that saw temperatures drop to minus 24 Thursday – coldest on that date since 1927.Nineteen people have been hospitalized with hypothermia, the service said.In Poland, the cold delayed trains, snarled traffic and prompted the Cabinet to allocate additional funds for homeless shelters and social services to protect the poor.”We have to react to keep people from freezing,” Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said.In the eastern Podlaskie province, temperatures plunged to minus 1, knocking out power to 1,900 homes, the media said.In Turkey, an avalanche swept a mountainous road and threw a passenger bus into a ravine Saturday, killing eight and injuring 15 people, reports said.Moscow temperatures warmed Saturday. but the city’s weather service said temperatures were unlikely to rise above minus 4 before February, making it the coldest winter since 1978-1979, when temperatures plummeted to minus 36.4.The cold has severely strained the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, with electricity use surging to record levels as towns and cities struggled to keep indoor temperatures up and Russians turned to supplemental heating sources, including electric radiators to keep warm.The use of gas heaters has resulted in several explosions. A gas canister exploded late Friday in an apartment building in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, injuring nine residents, the local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said.In the town of Gus-Khrustalny, 100 miles east of Moscow, several gas canisters exploded on the ground floor of a five-story apartment building, killing at least one person and injuring 10 late Friday, the ministry said.The cold spell forced schoolchildren to stay home, while vendors at Moscow’s outdoor food and clothing markets shuttered their booths and outdoor ATMs reportedly froze up. Traffic was uncharacteristically light as drivers were reluctant to venture out or unable to start their engines.

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