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SERVICES 
Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 15:44 GMT
Snow paralyses central Europe
Men trying to move a car stranded on a road
Parts of the Czech Republic are declared a disaster area.
Heavy snowfalls and blizzards have been causing chaos in many parts of central Europe.

Parts of the Czech Republic have been declared a disaster area, and people are feared dead in avalanches in Poland.

A number of avalanche deaths have also been confirmed in the Alps.


In many parts of the country it is still snowing, which makes our work pretty fruitless

Poland's Public Roads Bureau

In Poland, southern regions have been among the worst affected, with many roads declared impassable.

Snowdrifts piled up overnight on trunk roads, leaving drivers stranded as they returned home after New Year celebrations.

Rescue officials said five people were feared dead in avalanches in the mountain resort of Zakopane.

Traffic has also been affected in other parts of the country, and snow has blocked one of the main north-south routes near the central city of Lodz.

"Nobody expected such heavy snowfalls and we are doing our best to clear the snow and slush off the roads," a spokeswoman for Poland's Public Roads Bureau told the Reuters news agency.

"But in many parts of the country it is still snowing, which makes our work pretty fruitless," she said.

Bad weather was forecast to continue across much of the country, and the temperatures were expected to plunge to -18C.

Havoc

Heavy snows have also caused problems in the neighbouring Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Albanian villagers receive emergency food supply
Villagers in Albania were completely cut off

Officials in Prague declared about a third of the country a disaster area, and several border crossings with Poland and Germany were closed.

In Slovakia, transport links to villages in northern and eastern parts were severely interrupted, but none was cut off.

The country's president Rudolf Schuster was slightly injured in a traffic accident.

In Albania, heavy snow left around 150,000 villagers completely cut off on New Year's eve.

The K-For peace-keepers in neighbouring Kosovo were delivering food supplies after the Albanian authorities had asked for urgent help.

Bad weather has also wreaked havoc in Germany and France.

The Seine
The Seine overflowed on to its embankments in Paris
In north-eastern France, roads and rail links were disrupted by heavy rainfall causing flooding of the Mosell, Meuse and Seine rivers.

In Paris, lights illuminating the Pont Neuf in the blue and yellow of the European flag, were turned off on Wednesday as the waters of the Seine rose.

They had been switched on as the New Year arrived, in order to celebrate the introduction of the euro.

Severe weather also continued to take its toll in the Alps, where a number of skiers have been killed in avalanches since the weekend.

See also:

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?
18 Dec 01 | Europe
In pictures: Frozen Europe
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