Cold grips east, central Europe; 4 die in Bulgaria

Associated Press
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A woman carries a dog on a snowy street in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. Heavy snow storms affected the southeastern regions of Romania leading to delays in the railway and air traffic, cancellation of 60 trains, closure of roads and prompted the authorities to halt all heavy traffic and close schools in affected areas.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A cold spell is gripping parts of central and eastern Europe, killing four people in Bulgaria over the past few days, and Wednesday was the coldest day of the year in Moscow.

In Bulgaria, heavy snow and strong winds have left dozens of villages in the eastern half of the Balkan country without electricity and water.

A 76-year-old man died after getting stuck in a snowdrift in the village of Povet, near the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Three other men have died in weather-related incidents in eastern villages in the last two days. Many roads are closed to traffic while rescue teams try to bring food supplies to remote areas. Hundreds of schools remain closed. The main Black Sea port of Varna was shut because of high winds.

Snow fell in the central Adriatic coast in Croatia, which is highly unusual because the region has a Mediterranean climate. The ice and snow in the seaside town of Sibenik prompted authorities to close down the schools there. Heavy snow is also falling in neighboring Montenegro, causing road traffic problems.

Temperatures dipped to -22 C (-8 F) in Moscow and -31 C (-24 F) in surrounding regions, making it the coldest day of the year,

The temperature was 10 degrees below average for this time of year and expected to drop further. Many Muscovites, however, welcomed the sun and blues skies of a real Russian winter after the gray clouds that hung over the capital for much of December and January.

"The weather is magnificent and the sun is shining," said Yulia Sukhorukova, who was taking pictures near the Kremlin. "I'm in a good mood. No problem with the frost — winter has just now arrived."

Heavy snow has also hit Romania hard in recent days, closing down schools and snarling road and rail traffic.