Europe cold snap death toll rises

A man walks past an ice covered car on the frozen waterside promenade at Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Image caption The extreme weather has affected much of the continent

More deaths have been reported from the cold snap across Europe, which has already claimed more than 200 lives.

Ukraine continues to be hardest hit, with another nine deaths overnight. Officials say 131 have now died, most of them homeless people, and 1,800 people have been taken to hospital.

Eight people died in Poland overnight, police say, bringing the toll to 53.

Transport hubs have also been hit, with London's Heathrow airport expecting to run only 50% of services on Sunday.

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Media captionBBC Weather's Helen Willetts explains what is causing the cold conditions

At least four have died in France since the Arctic spell began and 43 departments in France have been put on alert for "exceptional" weather conditions.

The Italian capital Rome has seen its heaviest snowfall in more than 25 years, with runs on essential goods at supermarkets reported.

"The snow is beautiful, but let's hope spring comes soon,'' Pope Benedict XVI told the small number of pilgrims who braved the cold to go to St Peter's Square.

The Italian national rail operator is facing class action lawsuits after hundreds of people were trapped in trains due to the weather, AFP news agency reports.

Three helicopters were being used over eastern Bosnia on Sunday to deliver food and pick up people who needed evacuation.

A state of emergency is in force in the capital, Sarajevo, where snow has paralysed the city.

In neighbouring Serbia, 70,000 people remain cut off and 32 municipalities throughout the country have introduced emergency measures, according to senior emergency official Predrag Maric.

The Netherlands marked temperatures of -21.8C in the town of Lelystad on Saturday, the lowest recorded in the country for 27 years.

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