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Europe's cold snap kills hundreds, affects transport, tourism (VIDEO)

A weeklong cold snap has now claimed more than 220 lives across Europe, with forecasters warning that the big freeze — which has even blanketed Rome in snow — would tighten its grip over the weekend.

europe weather snow romeEnlarge
A photo taken on February 4, 2012 shows an snowman in front of the ancient Colosseum in Rome after a snowfall. A rare mantle of snow blanketed the historic center of Rome on February 3, forcing the closure of schools and tourist sites such as the Colosseum. The snow covered palm trees, ancient Roman ruins and Baroque churches across the normally mild-weather Italian capital which has only seen one snowfall in the past 15 years in which the snow stayed on the ground for a whole day. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

A weeklong cold snap has now claimed more than 220 lives across Europe, with forecasters warning that the big freeze — which has even blanketed Rome in snow — would tighten its grip over the weekend.

A total of 223 people have died from the cold weather in the past seven days, according to Agence France-Presse,  in what has become the harshest European winter in decades.

Ukraine suffering the highest toll — with 101 deaths recorded since the cold snap began. Temperatures plummeted as low to -16.6 degrees in the capital Kiev. Poland, Bulgaria and Romania also recorded high death tolls.

According to AFP, the dead included hundreds of homeless people who have frozen to death.

The cold has extended as far south as Serbia, where thousands were trapped under heavy snow and blizzards in the country's mountain villages.

In Italy, up to three inches of snow fell in some districts of the Italian capital, and the Colosseum was closed to prevent visitors slipping on ice or damaging the structure.

Daytime temperatures in Paris hit 23 degrees, and Marseilles was uncharacteristically frigid.

According to Al Jazeera, temperatures had dropped to -22 degrees and below in other parts of Europe, causing power outages, traffic chaos and the widespread closure of schools and airports.

However, the lowest temperatures recorded were in the south-west of the Czech Republic, where the mercury hit -36 degrees overnight.

Amid the freeze, vital Russian gas deliveries were curtailed in nine countries for a third straight day, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Moscow blamed the cuts on increased domestic demand. "Russia is experiencing a really cold winter and it needs more gas than usual," said Marlene Holzner, a spokeswoman for European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

In Moscow, the temperature stayed below 5 degrees for a third week running, The Guardian reported.

Most EU member countries had reportedly been relatively unaffected by the shortage, aided by supplies from neighbors and existing stores.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120204/europe-weather-snow-ice-rome-paris-moscow-coloseum-colusseum-video