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Serbia Frozen: Arctic Blast Blamed for Six Deaths

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(BELGRADE, Serbia) -- An arctic freeze has been blamed for six deaths in Serbia, while record snow has left 11,500 people trapped in about 6,500 households in remote villages. Many schools are closed, with hospitals facing an influx of hypothermia, orthopedic and cardiac cases.

The weather also caused traffic accidents, and raised fears of powergrid failures, burst water mains and skyrocketing home fuel and electricity bills. It has shut down normal life throughout the region.

“People are not ready for this kind of weather,” a doctor said in Bajina Basta, southwest Serbia, adding that hospitals were advising people not to go outdoors.

The temperature dropped in the southern region of Sjenica to minus-4 degrees, with fresh snowfall and continued low temperatures forecast for the weekend. “We have not experienced such harsh conditions since 1947,” Deputy Mayor Hazbo Mujovic said. “But back then, people were used to old-fashioned snowy and cold winters. They would prepare for it.”

Major highways remained open, but more than 1,800 miles of secondary roads are impassable. Many villages are cut off because of 16- to 19-foot-high snow drifts.

Dozens of homes and thousands of people in the town of Svrljig were without heat, electricity and running water overnight after a heavy snow fall, according to a local report. Eighteen other municipalities have also declared a state of emergency.

The meteorological office says temperatures in the latest freeze have been considerably lower than usual for this time of year. Forecasters predicted more bitter cold into next week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio