Blizzards and dangerously low temperatures persisted in parts of Europe on Sunday, prompting Pope Francis to draw attention to the homeless suffering in freezing weather. In Serbia, aid workers scrambled to help hundreds of migrants sleeping rough in parks and makeshift shelters. The extreme winter weather that has gripped Europe in the past days has caused more than a dozen deaths, left villages cut off, caused power and water outages, frozen rivers and lakes, grounded flights and led to road accidents. Serbia’s authorities on Sunday banned river traffic on its stretch of the Danube — one of Europe’s main rivers — because of ice and strong wind. Two men died of cold in Poland on Saturday, bringing the nation’s death toll from winter weather to 55 since Nov. 1, authorities said Sunday.
The next few days are critical, and for sure the health condition of these people is worsening
Stephane Moissaing, MSF Head of Mission in Serbia
In Italy, eight deaths were blamed on the cold, including a man who died in the basement of an unused building in Milan, and another one on a street flanking Florence’s Arno River. Francis asked God to “warm our hearts so we’ll help” the homeless. In Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, several hundred men, mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, remained in an abandoned customs warehouse by the city’s bus station, where aid organizations distributed heaters, blankets, clothes and food in an attempt to keep them warm. “We are all working together to help these people,” Mirjana Milenkovski, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, said. While most of the several thousand migrants in Serbia have stayed in the Balkan country’s asylum centers, hundreds have refused to do so, looking for ways to move on toward western Europe. In neighboring Bulgaria, police said two men from Iraq and a Somali woman died from cold in the mountains near Turkey as they tried to make their way toward Europe. Many in the Belgrade warehouse were sick after few days in extreme cold, aid workers said.