Rome: Dubbed ‘The Beast from the East’, a blast of Siberian weather sent temperatures plunging across much of Europe on Tuesday.
Freezing temperatures have claimed at least seven lives across the continent in recent days with particularly acute fears for rough sleepers in the bitter cold.
An Arctic cold front, which Britain`s tabloids have christened “The Beast from the East”, has swept in from Russia, causing widespread travel disruption and school closures.
The frozen temperatures in Europe are in stark contrast to the Arctic itself which is experiencing an unusually warm period despite it being the depths of winter when the sun never even rises above the horizon.
Yet hundreds of miles further south, temperate Rome woke to its first snowfall in six years on Monday thanks to the Polar Vortex. The mercury dipped as low as minus 4 C (24 Fahrenheit) early Tuesday morning according to the Italian Meteorological Service.
In Poland, where at least two people have died of exposure since Saturday, temperatures dropped overnight to minus 12 Celsius while parts of Lithuania saw the mercury fall below minus 20.
Temperatures in France are forecast to drop to minus 10 C and feel as low as minus 18 C over the coming days.
In Belgium, a local mayor in a municipality of Brussels ordered homeless people to be forcibly detained if they refused to go to shelters.
Etterbeek mayor Vincent De Wolf said the cold was a “major risk”, stressing that it was his responsibility to avoid potential deaths with temperatures set to drop to minus 15 C on Wednesday night.