By Nick Squires
Freezing temperatures claimed more victims in Ukraine, Poland, France and Italy. French authorities on Sunday found the body of a homeless man who had frozen to death, bringing to at least 306 the number of cold-related deaths reported across the continent.
Transport was badly disrupted, with people stuck in cars and trains blocked by snow and ice, amid warnings that the freezing temperatures will continue into the week. In Ukraine, one of the countries most severely affected, another nine people died from the cold snap, bringing the death toll there to 131.
Many of the victims were homeless people who froze to death on the streets. Seven people died in Italy, where heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures brought chaos for drivers and rail passengers and prompted runs on supermarkets, with worried shoppers emptying the shelves of food.
Rome was blanketed in white by the heaviest snowfall in 27 years, with children sledging down the slopes of the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot-racing arena, cross-country skiers taking to the banks of the Tiber and tourists building snowmen in St Peter’s Square, in front of the Vatican. Cars trying to drive in the capital were fixed with snow chains – a rare sight for a city known for its mild winters and scorching summers.
A shipping accident in the port of Civitavecchia near Rome, in which a ferry smashed into a breakwater and gashed an 80ft long hole in its hull, raised fears of a second Costa Concordia disaster. The incident caused terror among more than 250 passengers and forced the vessel’s evacuation, three weeks after 32 people were killed when the Concordia struck a rocky shoal off the Tuscan island of Giglio and had to be grounded. In Venice, parts of the lagoon froze over as temperatures plummeted to minus 10C.
UPDATE Feb 11: Minus -18 in uk last night expected to drop even lower