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Record Cold Continues in Europe; Toll Rises to 370

January 18, 1985|United Press International

LONDON — A carpet of fresh snow settled over Britain and Northern Ireland on Thursday, and temperatures dipped again to record lows across the Continent in the 12-day-old cold snap that has claimed 370 lives in Europe.

Natural gas explosions blamed on the cold ripped through the Brussels suburb of Forest on Thursday, killing two people and leaving another missing and feared dead in the rubble of three demolished houses.

The explosions, believed caused by gas lines cracked by freezing temperatures, came a day after a similar gas blast destroyed seven houses in the suburb of Evere, killing three people.

And in France, where 130 people have perished so far, 200 residents were forced from their homes in St. Etienne when a 600-foot pillar of flame leaped from a broken gas pipe in the minus-4 degree temperatures. The gas company blamed frozen earth for cracking the pipe.

At least 400 pink flamingoes in usually mild southern France starved to death in the Camargue bird sanctuary because ice-covered water prevented them catching fish, the League for the Protection of Birds said in Paris.

Italy's severest onslaught of snow in 29 years abated in most of the country, but a fierce gale lashed southern Italy and eastern Sicily, capsizing a small fishing vessel and grounding a 21,000-ton oil tanker.

Temperatures again dropped to record lows across the Continent, including 4 below at St. Etienne in south-central France, 1 degree above zero at Le Bourget airport near Paris and 3 degrees in the English Midlands.

A spate of fatal accidents added to the misery of Europe's bitterest winter in several years. Many major roads in Britain were blocked by trucks that stalled when diesel fuel froze in their tanks.

In southern Italy, four of the five crew members of the Italian fishing boat Natale di Giosa were feared drowned, bringing the Italian weather toll to at least 49.

The 28-member crew of the Gibraltar-registered tanker Giorgione managed to scramble ashore when the unladen vessel ran aground in the storm north of Siracusa.

In Britain, which caught the brunt of Thursday's storm, the death toll reached at least 17. They included three elderly women who died of hypothermia in Plymouth and a 63-year-old woman who froze to death walking home.

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