Deep freeze across Balkans makes migrant journeys harder
Jan. 20, 2016
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Subfreezing temperatures and snow have settled over Central Europe, adding to the difficulties of migrants heading to Western Europe but not weakening their determination to continue their journeys.
Liene Veide, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, said that some 2,000 migrants continue to cross from Macedonia into Serbia daily, even with temperatures plunging to a low of -19 C (-2 F) in the Serbian border town of Presevo on Wednesday.
Many of the asylum-seekers arrive without adequate winter clothing or boots and that some have pneumonia, fever or other illnesses, Veide told The Associated Press. Still, she said most refuse hospitalization and insist on pressing on with their journeys.
"The weather isn't stopping people; it's just making the trip more difficult," said Veide, who spoke from snow-covered southern Serbia. "People are very determined and want to keep on their journey. This makes it challenging to provide immediate assistance. Even when they are sick they are not willing to stay here in a hospital."
The organization Save the Children said this week that women, children and babies in particular are in danger of hypothermia. Migrants have been arriving in Serbia with blue lips, distressed and shaking from the cold. Exhausted mothers have told the group's aid workers they are unable to keep their babies warm and dry, and that some have slipped while carrying them on icy roads.
In Romania, 70 people, among them 45 children and several Israeli tourists, spent the night in mountaintop huts after a cable car broke down. The Interior Ministry sent two helicopters Wednesday to rescue the group, which was stranded near Balea Lac, a glacial lake at an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) in central Romania.
Temperatures in Romania plunged overnight to the lowest of the year, with -29.5 Celsius (-21 Fahrenheit) recorded in one town, Intorsura Buzaului.
Elsewhere in there region, temperatures dropped far below zero across the Czech Republic and with recordings of -30 C (-22 F) over the last two days in the Sumava mountains in the south of the country.
So far, no major problems have been reported there but meteorologists warn that the cold snap is expected to last for another week.
Freezing temperatures also gripped Poland, though not unusual for the season. Police said dozens of people, many of them homeless, have frozen to death since November.
Associated Press writers Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia; Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania; and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.