Image: A snow plow clears a road
Radek Petrasek  /  AP
A snow plow clears a road near Harrachov in the Krkonose Mountains (Giant Mountains), 80 miles northeast of Prague, Wednesday, Feb. 15.
updated 2/15/2012 3:04:26 PM ET 2012-02-15T20:04:26

More than 650 people have died during a record-breaking cold snap in Eastern Europe, authorities said Wednesday, as officials in the Czech Republic blamed two massive car crashes on blinding snow.

Since the end of January, the region has been pummeled by the deep freeze, which has brought the heaviest blizzards in recent memory. Tens of thousands have been trapped in often-freezing homes and villages by walls of snow and unpassable roads, and officials have struggled to reach out to the vulnerable with emergency food airlifts.

Authorities in Russia and Ukraine alone reported Wednesday that more than 300 people have died in the bitter cold.

About 100 damaged cars blocked a major highway in the Czech Republic connecting the capital, Prague, with the eastern part of the country and Slovakia. Seven people were injured in two separate accidents, authorities said, warning it could be hours before the mangled vehicles are cleared.

Some 40 cars crashed before midday Wednesday during a heavy snowstorm 188 miles (300 kilometers) east of Prague, injuring two people. Dozens of vehicles, including a bus, were involved in a separate crash southeast of Prague, which injured five, according to Czech public CT24 television.

Authorities in Russia said 205 people have died this year in the frigid cold, while Ukraine has had 112 cold fatalities and Poland had 107. Seven people have died in Romania in the past 24 hours, bringing the total there to 86 deaths. In Lithuania, there have been 23 deaths. Deaths were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

In hard-hit Romania, some 23,000 people remain isolated in 225 eastern communities where more than one week of heavy snow has blocked roads and wreaked havoc on the rail network. Residents were worried that their houses could collapse under the heavy snow as authorities struggled to bring them food, water, medicine and wood.

A flight instructor flew his homemade powered parachute — a motorized vehicle that flies at low altitude — making several 45 minute-trips to deliver bread and canned food to people who have been cut off for days.

A five-month-old girl with severe pneumonia was taken to a hospital early Wednesday by sled and an army vehicle after authorities struggled for six hours to reach her.

Romanian farmers — faced with up to 15 feet of snow in some areas this week — are concerned about their sheep, goats, horses and cows. One farmer said he dug his pigs out of the snow and brought them into his home.


Nicolae Dumitrache contributed from eastern Romania, and Karel Janicek from Prague, the Czech Republic.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Winter wildness

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  1. Easier to walk

    A man walks past an ice covered car on the frozen waterside promenade at Lake Geneva in the city Versoix on Feb. 5. The extreme winter across Europe has caused many disruptions and threatened lives as people struggle to cope with the freezing temperatures. (Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Deadly cold

    A woman looks out of a window covered in frost on a bus in Bucharest, Romania, on Feb. 2. At least 11,000 villagers have been trapped by heavy snow and blizzards in Serbia's mountains, authorities said, as the death toll from Eastern Europe's weeklong deep freeze continues to rise. (Vadim Ghirda / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Chilly waters

    Sheets of ice float on the Oder river on Feb. 1 near Frankfurt, Germany. (Patrick Pleul / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Ice house

    A frozen house is seen along a dogsled-race route in the Orlicke mountains, Czech Republic, on Jan. 26. Each year, racers from all over Europe arrive to the village of Destne in Orlicke mountains in the Czech Republic to take part in the race. (Petr Josek / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Quiet waterfall

    People watch the frozen Triberger waterfalls in the Black Forest in Triberg, Germany, on Feb. 7. (Winfried Rothermel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Nice ice

    Ice crystals cover the windshield of a car after overnight temperatures fell to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit in Ilmenau, Germany, on Feb. 5. (Michael Reichel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Icy pillars

    The central Adriatic Croatian port of Senj is covered in thick ice near Zagreb, Croatia, as the sun sets on Feb. 8. Extreme weather and snow trapped more than 100 villages in remote, mountainous parts of Croatia. (Hrvoje Polan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Faster than boating

    People skate on the frozen Lauriergracht canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Feb. 8. Several of the city's famous canals have frozen over, giving residents a rare opportunity to skate by waterfront houses. (Margriet Faber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Surf's up

    A surfing enthusiast gets ready to brave the icy waters at La Zurriola beach in San Sebastián on Feb. 4. An ongoing cold spell has hit Europe with temperatures plummeting far below zero. (Javier Etxezarreta / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Windy walk

    A man walks through Roncesvalles, where snow and wind billow across the region in northern Spain, on Feb. 2. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The water's fine!

    Members of a local winter swiming club dip in the Yenisei River before going for a swim in a temperatures around minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the town of Divnogorsk, Siberia, on Feb. 3. (Ilya Naymushin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A heavy winter

    A car drives through a snowy landscape on the Grosser Inselberg mountain near Tabarz, Germany, on Feb. 6. The deadly cold snap that has gripped Europe for more than a week has wrought havoc across the continent, straining emergency services and grounding flights. (Martin Schutt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Cold Britches

    As a snowstorm hits the Denver metro area, Jerry Anderson, 54, of Lakewood, Colo., takes care of his quarterhorse named Britches, at Wild West Ranch, on Feb. 3, in Arvada, Colo. "I don't know how horses survive in this weather, but they do," says Anderson. (Barry Gutierrez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Frozen drips

    A man looks at the giant icicles on a rock in central Tbilisi, on Feb. 7. (Vano Shlamov / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. White, white, everywhere

    A pedestrian walks between snowy stairways at the Olympic park in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 7. (Christof Stache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A sea stroll

    Walkers take part in a hike across the frozen Wadden Sea near Pieterburen, The Netherlands, on Feb. 8. Walking on seawater is special because salt water freezes at a temperature of 24 degrees Fahrenheit. (Piroschka Van de Wouw / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Fowl weather

    Ducks take off from a pond on a brisk day in Minsk, Belarus, on Feb. 1. (Sergei Grits / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Colosseum closed

    An aerial view showing the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, on Feb. 4, following heavy overnight snowfall. Although usually blessed with a moderate climate, the rare snowfall forced authorities to stop visitors from entering the city's famous tourist sites. (Ettore Ferrari / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Seasonal footwear

    Women walk near the Trevi fountain during snowfall on Feb. 3 in Rome. A rare mantle of snow blanketed the historic center of Rome as temperatures in the Alpine region of Piedmont in northern Italy went as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Needs a hat

    A mother with her son look at a snowman at Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City on Feb. 4. (Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Now what?

    Two children make snowballs in Lincolnshire, north east England on Feb. 5. Many parts of England have been plunged into freezing temperatures over the last week. (Lindsey Parnaby / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Puffy coat

    A sparrow with extended feathers due to the cold sits on a branch in temperatures around minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit in central Kiev, on Feb. 3. (Gleb Garanich / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Winter wares

    An elderly woman is wrapped in thick winter clothes as she sells cigarettes to passersby in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 3. (Sergey Dolzhenko / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Business is open

    An Afghan street barber sits on a plank in the snow as he trims the mustache of a customer in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Feb. 9. Temperatures in Kabul dipped to as low as 3 degrees Fahrenheit, with the lowest previous on record at 1 degree Fahrenheit about 15 years ago. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Hiking to fun

    People carrying sleds and tubes hike up to a sledding hill in Chautauqua Park on Feb. 3 in Boulder, Colo. Boulder reported between 12 and 16 inches of snow, closing most schools and government offices. (Dana Romanoff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Icicle season

    A young Romanian makes his way through a blizzard in central Bucharest, Romania, on Jan. 26. The storm cut electricity in 182 localities, 364 public schools were closed, 28 flights were canceled, two highways and 24 national roads were closed, and one train was derailed. (Robert Ghement / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Free lunch

    Birds grab a bite at a snow-covered park in Sofia, Bulgaria. Most of the nation is suffering from severe winter conditions, including extremely low temperatures and heavy snowstorms. (Vassil Donev / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. I'll walk

    Snow covered cars in Pristina, Kosovo, and closed all elementary and high schools in the region. (Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Spa time

    Japanese wild monkeys sit in an open-air hot spring at the Jigokudani (Hell's Valley) Monkey Park, in Yamanouchi, Japan. (Jiji Press via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Hang on

    Matt Redmond, 3, and his father, Mike, zoom on a sled after an overnight snowfall in Baltimore on Jan. 21. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Slow strolling

    Some commuters walk toward a rail station as the snow accumulated in downtown Chicago on Jan. 20. (Kiichiro Sato / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Stocking up

    A woman pushes a cart to her car as snow fell in Chicago on Jan. 20. The storm caused hundreds of flights to be canceled at O'Hare International and Midway airports. (Nam Y. Huh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Car-free streets

    Sledders, skiers, snowboarders and pedestrians take over a snow-covered street in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle on Jan. 18. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Brr-r-r

    A frosty fog stretches above the Yenisei River with temperatures at about minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Jan. 17. (Ilya Naymushin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Winter racing

    A musher and his dogs run through the village of Bonneval-sur-Arc during the eighth stage of the La Grande Odyssee sled-dogs race on Jan. 16. The race crosses the Alps in France, covering 621 miles over 11 days. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Snow day

    Kashmiri women play in the snow in Srinagar, India, on Jan. 16. The snowfall cut off the valley from the rest of the country. (Mukhtar Khan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Frozen beauty

    A daisy is covered in hoarfrost on Jan. 16 in Cologne, Germany. (Federico Gambarini / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Snow blown

    Tyler Courtney clears his driveway Jan. 13 in Canton, Ohio, as a winter storm swept across the Midwest. (Scott Heckel / The Repository via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Winter finally arrives

    A crossing guard stops traffic as children walk to school in cold and snowy weather as Illinois receives its first significant snowfall on Jan. 12 in Springfield, Ill. (Seth Perlman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Ice skating

    People skate on ice paths Jan. 12 at a park in Moscow. (Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Ice fishing

    Men fish on a frozen canal Jan. 12 in Beijing, China. Despite few and very small fish living beneath the ice, a number of enthusiasts enjoy spending long hours sitting in the cold waiting for a bite on their line. For most it is just a pastime, and they release the fish back into the water. Others hope to bring home something fresh to eat. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Perfect for a snowball

    A girl forms a snowball Jan. 6 on snowy stairs at the Olympic stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. (Christof Stache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. One cool slide

    A young girl goes down an ice slide Jan. 5 at the International Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China. The annual three-month festival attracts visitors from all over China as well as a number of foreign guests who brave below zero temperatures to see colorful large ice and snow sculptures, ride horse-drawn carriages and enjoy a number of winter activities set up on the sidelines of the festival. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A church of snow

    A Catholic priest looks at the ice altar Dec. 28 inside a church made of snow in the Bavarian village of Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany. (Petr Josek / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Moscow fun

    People build snowmen and ride a sled in Kolomenskoye, a historical and nature reserve museum in Moscow, on Jan. 1. (Denis Sinyakov / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Ice train

    Beijing residents enjoy skating and sliding on the city's frozen lakes in the Shichahai district on Dec. 29, 2011. Winter has brought a light snowfall and temperatures rarely above freezing in China's capital. (Adrian Bradshaw / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Face plant

    A fine snow covers a dog playing on the snow in Oberhof, Germany, on Dec. 30, 2011. (Robert Michael / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Let there be light

    The sun shines on snow-covered stables in Sapuen, in the Swiss canton of Grisons, on Jan. 3. (Arno Balzarini / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Ring of fire

    Men warm themselves by a fire at a railway yard on a cold winter morning in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh on Jan. 3. (Ajay Verma / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Cool meal

    Tourists have dinner inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains in Romania on Dec. 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, at a price of $45.73 per person. (Radu Sigheti / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Multi-generational fun

    A father and his son pull a sled through the snow at the Feldberg mountain in Germany on Dec. 20, 2011. (Stephan Scheuer / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Ski patrol

    Cross country skiers slide during sunny winter weather near the Swiss mountain resort of Davos on Dec. 27, 2011. (Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Powdered mane

    A horse stands in the intense wind and snow near his corral off of Highway 70 in Las Cruces, N.M., on Dec. 5, 2011. Snowfall started to blanket the City of the Crosses at about 11 a.m. and steadily continued throughout the day. (Shari V. Hill / Las Cruces Sun-News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. First snow of the year

    A woman walks through trees during a snowfall in a park in Beijing on Dec. 2, 2011. It was the first snowfall of the winter in the Chinese capital. (Liu Jin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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