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Blizzards leave 14 people dead as cold snap hits Greece, other parts of Europe and Middle East


At least 14 people have been killed and several others remain missing after below freezing temperatures and blizzards hit Europe this week. Severe weather is expected to continue into the new week. Act accordingly.

Temperatures in central and northern Greece have remained below freezing for almost a week, Euronews reports. Heavy snow has disrupted transport services and forced flights to be diverted in the country's north.

Snowstorms, brought by weather system named Sophia, were especially heavy on Thursday and Friday, January 3 and 4. The worst affected regions appear to East Thessaly, Evia and northern sections of Central Greece.

A car was found overturned near a stream in Keratea, 45 km (28 miles) southeast of Athens and a body of one elderly woman inside. Two men reportedly in the car at the time of the accident are still missing.

"Her husband and one more man, who were in the same car, have been reported missing since Thursday when bad weather conditions prevailed in the area," a police official said on condition of anonymity.

The city of Thessaloniki was covered in a thick layer of snow and completely paralyzed by the blizzard with no public transport running on January 5.

The civil protection service has urged municipal authorities to be on the alert ahead of a further spell of cold weather expected to hit Greece on Monday, January 7, 2019. 

Snow has also caused travel chaos in parts of Germany, Austria and Italy as authorities closed roads and train routes because of avalanche danger, and airports reported weather-related cancellations on Saturday, January 5, ABC reports.

Munich Airport, Germany's second-biggest, said 120 flights were canceled and others were delayed while workers cleared runways of snow and removed ice from planes.

One person died and two people were left seriously injured in Germany after their car skidded into oncoming traffic on icy roads.

In Austria, training and the qualification stage for the annual Four Hills ski jump tournament was canceled after more than 50 cm (1.64 feet) of fresh snow fell overnight.

Authorities say they are also monitoring for possible avalanches, while the avalanche danger in the southern Alps is at Level 4, the second highest warning level. Several towns in Austria have been evacuated because officials feared strong winds could trigger a large avalanche.

Update: The number of people killed by snowstorms in Europe rose to 14 on Monday, January 7.

Snowstorms are expected to continue affecting Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and other parts of the continent, all the way east to Romania and south to Greece, over the next couple of days. 

More than 1.5 m (4.9 feet) of snow is possible across parts of Alps over the next few days.

Parts of Iran have also been struck by a heavy snowstorm this week, with 17 provinces severely affected on January 3 and 4.

Some 90 rescue teams comprising 320 rescue workers offered relief and rescue service, Rescue and Relief Organization head Morteza Salimi said. Meanwhile, some 4 100 who were stranded in the snow storm received relief services and 656 cars stuck in snow were released.

Moreover, five provinces including Tehran, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Semnan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad were also inundated by flood.

One person, an emergency medical technician has gone missing in Khuzestan province due to the flood, Salimi said, adding that his body was later found. 

Featured image credit: Marco Kaschuba

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