LONDON — Europe slid deeper into one of the century's coldest winters today, with weather-related deaths climbing beyond 150 and hundreds of thousands of people staying home from work.
At least 155 people were reported dead, victims of the cold or accidents triggered by a two-week wave of blizzards and record low temperatures from Britain to the Soviet Union.
It snowed on the French Riviera, and polar bears in Antwerp zoo in Belgium were taken indoors because of the intense cold. A bear escaped from Frankfurt zoo by walking over a frozen moat.
Firefighters in Hamburg could only watch a two-family home burn down because a fire hydrant was frozen.
Fresh heavy snowfalls and bitterly freezing temperatures afflicted most of the continent, causing food and fuel shortages in snowbound communities and immobilizing transport.
At least 27 Britons, most of them elderly, were reported dead from hypothermia, accidents or heart attacks caused by the cold. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government ordered emergency pay-outs of $7.50 a week to old-age pensioners to help them meet heating bills.
British Rail virtually suspended London area commuter services this morning, keeping up to 700,000 people from work.
Stores ran out of bread and milk, and panic food-buying was reported in several snowbound areas around London.
French President Francois Mitterrand called out the army to help cope with conditions as temperatures plunged to a record 44 degrees below zero near the Franco-Swiss border. He also ordered army barracks opened to shelter the homeless.
Parts of Paris looked deserted as many motorists heeded government advice and left their cars at home.