Red Ice Membership

Europe plagued by snow and heatwaves, Romanian death toll climbs
2004 07 11

BUCHAREST (AFP) - Extreme temperatures, which have killed at least 22 people in Romania in the space of a week, continued to plague Europe, with Greece sweltering in a heatwave and parts of Germany under a blanket of snow.

Four people, two of them teenage shepherds, were struck by lightning in Romania at the weekend, when a heatwave that had killed at least 18 people during the week gave way to hailstorms and gale-force winds, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

Fierce winds damaged 400 houses, mainly in the north, ripped up trees and cut power supplies to 300 areas, while hailstorms destroyed 4,600 hectares (11,360 acres) of crops, a ministry official said.

Storms that had provoked floods and power cuts in Britain and Germany during the week turned to snow in the Bavarian mountains on Sunday.

Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, was covered in two meters (six feet seven inches) of snow after 10 centimeters fell since Saturday and the mercury dipped to an unseasonally cold minus six degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit), meteorologists said.

In France, where nearly 15,000 people died in an extended heatwave last year, summer 2004 continued to be a rain-drenched washout.

But Greece continued to labour under a heatwave that swept across the Balkans during the week, killing 15 people in neighbouring Macedonia, in addition to the casualties in Romania.

The authorities in Athens, which hosts the Olympic Games (news - web sites) next month, advised people with respiratory or heart problems to stay out of the sun, which sent temperatures up to over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the city.

Firefighters were on alert on Sunday, ANA news agency said.

On Wednesday, a fire that broke out about 60 kilometres (40 miles) northwest of Athens was fanned by strong winds to a built-up region near an Olympic village, built to house athletes for the August 13-29 games.

A 75-year-old man died and 20 hectares of land were destroyed in the fire which took several hours to bring under control.

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