At least 10 dead after heavy snowstorm sweeps across Ukraine

Emergency workers try to push a car trapped in snow on the Odesa region highway in Ukraine, November 27, 2023.

Emergency workers try to push a car trapped in snow on the Odesa region highway in Ukraine on November 27, 2023.Ukrainian Emergency Service/APCNN — 

At least 10 people have died and thousands remain cut off from the power grid in Ukraine, in three days of stormy weather that has blanketed parts of the country in heavy snow, a senior official said Tuesday.

More than 400 settlements across 11 regions were without electricity, and more than 1,500 responders were trying to reach thousands of people in need of rescue, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on Telegram, as fresh bouts of snow are expected to continue this week.

Another 23 were injured, including two children, Klymenko said Tuesday, adding the deaths were in Odesa, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kyiv regions.

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Videos showed Ukrainian police battling fierce winds as they pushed and towed cars back onto icy highways after they had slid off-road into ditches.

The storm also hit occupied Crimea, prompting Russian-appointed officials to announce a state of emergency in parts of the peninsula.

The worst of the storm that hit Ukraine on Sunday appears to have passed, but another powerful low-pressure system will hit the country late Tuesday through Wednesday, unleashing rounds of additional heavy snow, wind and rain.

Snow totals — which measure how much snow has fallen — from the current storm will be highest across the mountainous southwestern regions of Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakapattia, where the Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Center has warned of “considerable danger” of avalanches.

Odesa weather forecasters believe the current snowfall has become the heaviest in the last five years.

Odesa meteoroligists say the current snowfall is the heaviest in the last five years.Viacheslav Onyshchenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Interior Ministry spokesperson Maryana Reva said that snow drifts in some places had reached 2 meters high. She told Ukrainian television that the south was worst affected, with five deaths recorded in Odesa region.

The storm hit as Ukrainians continue to live through challenging conditions that have come from Russia’s war on the country. Infrastructure and basic services have been compromised already in many places, and the extreme weather is compounding those problems.

Officials gave grim accounts of where the dead were found.

“All the deceased were discovered on the streets,” Reeva said Tuesday. “According to preliminary information, they died of hypothermia.”

She said a total of 6,000 Interior Ministry personnel had been involved in responding to the storm since Sunday.

Rescue teams evacuated nearly 2,500 people from Odesa, including 162 children, according to Governor Oleh Kiper. “849 vehicles were towed, including 24 buses and 17 ambulances,” he wrote on Telegram.

The extreme weather was caused by a low-pressure system over eastern Europe over the weekend. Wind speeds of up to 65 miles (105 kilometers) per hour on Sunday were reported.

Thousands without power

In occupied Crimea, the Russian-appointed head of the peninsula Sergey Aksenov announced a state of emergency in 10 municipalities on Tuesday.

“Yesterday I reported the situation to our President [Vladimir Putin], who gave instructions to the federal government to allocate funds for the restoration of the destroyed infrastructure,” Aksenov wrote on Telegram.

The storm had left some 93,000 people in Crimea without electricity, and disrupted the water supply to 245 villages, Aksenov said.

“Work at the sites is being carried out around the clock. Teams of resource specialists have been formed,” he said.

The Russian Emergency Ministry also warned the situation could deteriorate across the country, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Climate change, caused primarily by humans burning fossil fuels, is making severe storms in many parts of the world more frequent. In Ukraine, the overall snow cover each year is expected to decline as the planet warms further. But climate change is also making heavy snowfall events in winter more frequent there.

The country is also grappling with drought that has impacted agriculture, also made more likely by the climate crisis, as well as an uptick in flooding events.

CNN’s Darya Tarasova, Caitlin Danaher and Derek Van Dam contributed to this report.

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