The extreme cold that has claimed lives and caused travel chaos across parts of Europe was also posing a new danger to the thousands of vulnerable refugees stranded in Greece.
On the Greek island of Chios, which like the rest of the country is accustomed to mild winters, the situation for residents at the Souda refugee camp was worsening, one islander told DPA.
“The living quarters have long been overcrowded, and those who have no place there are now waiting in summer tents without electricity and heating,” Jenny Kaliposi said. “Children, grown-ups – whoever leaves his tent must stand in the icy mud.”
Some refugees on the island of Lesbos were also reportedly without electricity and water.
There are currently around 15,500 people waiting to be sent back to Turkey under a deal struck between the EU and Ankara to return all migrants that crossed the Aegean illegally from Turkish shores.
In Germany, a people smuggler abandoned 19 asylum-seekers inside a van at a parking lot off a Bavarian motorway on Saturday.
The temperature was -20° Celsius.
“After hours of driving, the unscrupulous driver simply left the van with the people inside the unheated cargo area and disappeared,” German federal police said.
The 14 adults and five minors received medical treatment.
Police said they had paid between €500 and €800 per person for the journey, and that they driver likely left them in the cold when the van started experiencing engine trouble near the municipality of Brannenburg.
There was no sign of the driver.
Europe has been hit by below-freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall in recent days, causing several deaths in hundreds of weather-related incidents from France to Turkey.
At least nine people have died in Poland, three in the Czech Republic and two in Hungary due to the cold snap, authorities said.
Two of the deaths in the Czech capital and both in the Hungarian capital were homeless individuals.
In eastern France, four Portuguese passengers were killed when their bus skidded off the road near Lyon early yesterday.
The interior ministry said ice on the road was likely the cause of the crash.
Temperatures dropped to -17° C in some areas of Greece.
There were repeated power failures and several roads remained impassable.
It snowed for the first time in 40 years in Rethymno, on the island of Crete, in the south of the country, Greek broadcaster Skai reported yesterday.
People were even snowboarding.
More than half a metre of snow had piled up on the Aegean island of Skopelos, residents told DPA.
In Istanbul, there were major delays at Turkey’s largest airport, where all domestic flights have been cancelled up to last night, according to airlines and Turkish media.
Over 600 more domestic and international flights have been cancelled at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, Dogan news agency reported, as the city weathered a winter storm that surprised residents with up to 40cm of snow.
Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait reopened to shipping traffic yesterday after being halted by the severe weather.
Klin, a village northwest of the Russian capital Moscow, recorded a temperature of -35.9° C, the Tass news agency reported yesterday.
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