Russia and Ukraine both took precautions on Friday to protect homeless people, scores of whom have frozen to death on the streets of Europe during its brutal cold snap.

As the death toll from the weeklong tragedy rose to at least 175 on Friday, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the creation of feeding and medical-assistance facilities nationwide for the homeless.

Russia has not reported casualty figures from the cold snap, which has gripped a large swath of the continent from Russia to Serbia. But Russian Deputy Health Minister Maxim Topilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency on Friday as saying that 64 people died from the cold in January. 

In Ukraine, the hardest hit country, health officials have told hospitals to stop discharging the hundreds of homeless patients after they are treated for hypothermia and frostbite. The goal is to prevent them from dying once they are released into temperatures as low as  –32 C.

Authorities also have set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters.

Thirty-eight more fatalities were reported from frostbite and hypothermia in Ukraine on Friday, raising the nation's death toll to 101. Emergency officials have said many of the victims were homeless.

Mykola Blyznyuk of the Health Ministry told the Kyiv Post newspaper that many of the victims of hypothermia had broken their legs in falls and spent a long time on the ground in freezing temperatures while waiting for help to arrive.

Of the Ukrainians who have died since the cold weather hit Jan. 27, 64 were found frozen on the streets, 11 died in hospitals and 26 in their homes, emergency officials said.

It was so cold that some 1,500 swans, sea gulls and ducks froze to the ice in a small harbour near Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa, forcing emergency workers to use ships to break up the surface and free the birds, officials said.

The weeklong snap — Eastern Europe's worst in decades — is causing power outages, frozen water pipes and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries, airports and bus routes.

Adriatic Sea freezes in some areas

Bosnia reported its first deaths due to cold and snow. Five people died Friday in Sarajevo, most of them while shovelling snow, Dr. Tigran Elezovic said, and one person died in the southern city of Mostar, where ambulances could not reach the victim because of snow.

In the Netherlands, police in the eastern city of Wageningen reported that a homeless man found dead Thursday in a shed died of hypothermia, making him the first confirmed Dutch victim of the cold.


A boat makes its way on the frozen river Spree in Berlin on Feb. 3, 2012. Germany has also been hit by the cold snap in Europe. (Axel Schmidt/DAPD/Associated Press)

In Poland, the Interior Ministry recorded eight more deaths on Friday and said two other people died of asphyxiation from carbon monoxide-spewing charcoal heaters.

In Serbia, where six people have died, blizzards gripped Belgrade, the capital, and Novi Sad, the country's second-largest city, complicating efforts to rescue people trapped in their homes.

In northern Serbia, hundreds of tonnes of fish in the Ecka lakes were in danger because the water was icing over. Dozens of people have been working nonstop to break the ice, using hammers and all kinds of tools, and sometimes even falling into the freezing water.

Neighbouring Croatia and Montenegro also were hard hit.

In Croatia, some highways were closed and waters of the Adriatic Sea froze in some areas. Buses that travel from Zagreb, the capital, toward the coast have been cancelled. In Montenegro, the airport in the capital, Podgorica, was closed due to heavy snow.

Daytime temperatures have been hovering around –18C in Moscow, raising questions about how many people will brave the cold for the latest in a series of massive opposition rallies planned in the Russian capital on Saturday.