Europe was freezing to death. Literally. An Arctic cold
wave hit Romania and it spread to other parts of Europe and a great number
of people died as a result of this. With the combination of below-zero
temperatures and accompanying blizzards, sixty-two people died since it
first began November 16, 1998. The early winter weather took the
Europeans by surprise. During the course of three days, the harsh
cold took the lives of twenty-four people in Romania and Bulgaria alone.
Also, in Poland, thirty-two people died, and according to police reports,
most of them homeless or others who passed out in the cold after drinking
alcohol. Another disasterous result was that approximately
200 people spent more than two days stranded in their cars after winds
whipped snowdrifts across main highways in southern Romania. Army vehicles
rescued most drivers but there were six people who froze to death.
Not only was there widespread death, but there were many problems that affected the basic routines of life. Many trains were cancelled and there were reportedly 200 communities without electricity. Fifteen major roads were blocked by snowdrifts as high as five feet. Also, cars smashed into other vehicles and skidded in the icy conditions. In France, some highways were blocked and some areas were without power, phones and running water. The Black Sea ports of Burgas in Bulgaria and Constanta in Romania were closed for a day due to storms.
Poland seemed to be the hardest hit by the cold wave. After more than three weeks of sub-zero temparatures and the death toll across Europe over 90, the Polish government decided to allocate approximately 1.5 million dollars to groups that help the homeless. These funds were especially useful since most of the victims were homeless. Due to the numbers seeking shelter, welfare groups changed their policy and took in drunken people.