VIENNA, Austria — Vienna’s subway tracks cracked, German authorities shut a key canal to ships after it iced up, and a zoo moved its penguins indoors Tuesday as a deadly deep freeze tightened its arctic grip on much of Europe.
The killer cold wave, which has been blamed for more than 50 deaths in Russia, claimed at least 13 lives in the past five days in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, where authorities said another 30 people — many of them homeless — were hospitalized with hypothermia.
Romanian authorities reported 15 deaths in the past few days, five of them homeless people, after temperatures dropped as low as minus 22 degrees.
Parts of Austria felt more like Siberia, with the mercury plunging well below zero. The bitter cold hit an all-time low of minus 24 degrees in the Lower Austria town of Gross Gerungs, while in the beer-making town of Zwettl, it was minus 12 — the chilliest Jan. 24 since 1929.
Vienna’s subway system operator said morning rush-hour service was interrupted in some areas of the capital because the severe cold — which hit a low of minus 2 — caused small tears in the welds on sections of track.
Austria’s largest automobile club, OEAMTC, said it responded to hundreds of calls from motorists whose cars wouldn’t start because of dead batteries — along with dozens more from drivers who could not pry their way into their vehicles because the doors were frozen shut.
Thick sheets of ice stretching about 50 miles posed a danger to ship propellers and lock systems, said Leonhard Hummel of the Office of Water and Navigation in Nuremberg. An icebreaker had to help six ships in the canal — which links waterway systems between the North Sea and the Black Sea — reach their destinations.
At the zoo in Dresden, Germany, 21 Humboldt penguins were moved from their minus 6 outdoor environment into a building where the temperature was a more comfortable 32 degrees to ensure their feet didn’t freeze, zoo director Karl Ukena said.
Power drain in Moscow
In Moscow, which was held in an icy grip for the past nine days, trolley buses and trams returned to full operation Tuesday, but record-breaking electricity consumption continued to strain the Soviet-era power system. The Russian capital “warmed” to minus 7, balmy compared with Thursday’s minus 24, but the city’s death toll rose to at least 28.
Serbia recorded its first cold casualty of the year when an elderly homeless man died in Belgrade. In Kosovo, where tens of thousands lined up outdoors to pay respects to President Ibrahim Rugova, who died Saturday, authorities urged mourners to bundle up and provided some with hot tea.
A 47-year-old man froze to death early Tuesday in the eastern Czech town of Sumperk, and in Prague, workers erected heated tents for the homeless as temperatures in some parts of the country plunged to minus 22. Tents also went up in Bratislava, the capital of neighboring Slovakia.
In Croatia, temperatures fell to minus 1 and winds gusting to 100 mph created a fearsome wind chill factor.
Temperatures fell to 21 degrees across northern Italy early Tuesday and plummeted to a record 3 degrees in alpine areas, whipped by winds of up to 75 mph.
Snow fell on Greece’s ancient Acropolis and covered much of Athens and its outlying suburbs Tuesday. The weather cut access to dozens of remote mountain villages, police and civil defense authorities said.
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