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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 15:48 GMT
Passengers rescued from Greek train
Thessaloniki airport
Transport has been badly hit throughout northern Greece
Greek troops have evacuated nearly 120 people trapped on a train in northern Greece since Monday night because of snow and bad weather.

All the passengers were taken to a nearby village and were in safety, an official from the Greek Ministry of Transport told BBC News Online.

The passengers, including seven children, spent more than 10 hours in sub-zero temperatures in the unheated railway coaches.

"We are wearing everything we have," one passenger told Athens Flash radio by phone.

"If they don't get us out soon, things will get pretty serious."

Trapped

The train got stuck in two metres (more than six feet) of snow near Orestiada, close to the Bulgarian border.

Statue of Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki
Alexander the Great braves the cold

Bad weather hampered an earlier attempted helicopter rescue.

Temperatures dipped to -10C during Monday night, with some reports of temperatures in the area as low as -20C.

Storms and snow have swept southern and eastern Europe in the past few days, leaving thousands of people cut off and without power and causing hundreds of cold-related deaths.

Deaths

So far this winter, 135 people - mainly old and homeless people - have died in Poland, while in nearby Latvia and Lithuania more than 40 people have died in the recent cold snap.

The lowest recorded temperature on Monday night was in Romania, where it dropped to -25C.

Man fishing in frozen Black Sea
In Bulgaria, parts of the Black Sea froze
Greece has been battered by snow, gales and heavy rain and airports, including Thessaloniki, remain closed.

Motorways have been blocked and ships kept in harbour.

In Turkey, two women were reported drowned and a family of five was missing as storms and floods hit.

Arctic warmth

But while southern Europe is in a deep freeze, the Arctic fringe has been very mild.

Temperatures have been above freezing in Archangel, on Russia's White Sea, as well as on the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen, off the coast of Greenland.

Iceland has reported temperatures of 12C.

Although temperatures are now rising, the BBC's weatherman, Philip Eden, says Europe is set for a second bite of cold weather.

This time the freeze will come down from Greenland, rather than Russia, bringing a cold front to the UK, Scandinavia and parts of western Europe spared this time.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Wood
"Between 300 and 500 villages are completely snowed in"
See also:

17 Dec 01 | Europe
Europe battles snow and floods
17 Dec 01 | Europe
In pictures: Frozen Europe
07 Nov 01 | Health
Cold homes 'killing elderly'
04 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Europe's climate forecast is hot
18 Mar 99 | Health
Cold 'killing 50,000' each winter
06 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
Big freeze for Britain?
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