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Severe Weather Ravages Europe


Severe weather conditions are sweeping across Europe. In Italy, civil defense officials are monitoring swelling rivers and nearby homes are being evacuated. Sudden snowstorms caused several cold-related deaths and disruption in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The severe weather conditions are expected to ease up Monday for a few hours in central Italy. But then more rain is expected until Thursday. Authorities have been forced to close roads and evacuate dozens of families from homes near rivers.

Swelling rivers are being carefully monitored. Around 200 people living near the mouth of the River Tiber spent Sunday night in hotels or at relatives' homes. Torrential rains led to the river to rise to 12 meters.

The head of Italy's civil defense department, Guido Bertolaso, says the level reached by the Tiber was historic and has not been seen for more than a quarter of a century.

He added that the situation is not yet considered an emergency, but the civil defense department is in a state of alert.

Heavy flooding hit many parts of the country, mainly central regions, with damage reported to property and crops. The Italian farmer's association estimated a loss of tens of the millions of euros.

Ice and snow also blocked roads. And rough seas were reported around Italy. A Turkish ship whose engine broke Sunday had to be towed to safety in the Bay of Naples.

In northern Europe, sudden snowstorms caused serious disruption and some deaths. Three homeless people froze to death in Paris and two in Brussels.

In Belgium and Germany authorities struggled to respond to electricity blackouts. Airports in France, Belgium and Germany were affected by the snow and high winds.

In the Netherlands road and rail networks ground to a halt leaving hundreds of commuters stranded. In Austria, the national weather service raised the avalanche risk level and skiers have been urged not to stray off marked trials.

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