At least 64 people died of hypothermia across Russia in January from the freezing weather gripping most of the country, Maxim Topilin, a deputy health minister, said on Friday.
About 1,400 people requested medical assistance nationwide, with 779 of them admitted to hospitals, Topilin said, adding that the figures only include data from 50 out of 83 Russian regions.
The current temperatures in Russia are 7-12 degrees below normal. The cold snap even extends into the normally warm North Caucasus with temperatures there plummeting to minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit). Siberia and the Far East, no strangers to cold winter weather, are currently in a deep freeze at minus 40 degrees Celsius.
A Moscow health official said five people died overnight in the Russian capital, where low temperatures in different parts of the city dipped to between minus 23 and minus 27 degrees Celsius.
The biting cold compels Russians to make excessive use heating devices such as electrical space heaters and furnaces, which increase the chances of house fires.
Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said the number of house fires increased by 30 percent since the severe frosts began this year. Many of them were caused by electric circuits in overloaded electricity systems, fireplaces and damaged household gas systems.
The Russian Meteorological Bureau said the peak of severe colds has already passed in European Russia, but the temperature will remain 6-8 degrees below the norm for at least another week.
Freezing temperatures also reign in most of the European countries, particularly the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Ukraine and others, where extremely low temperatures killed scores of people. In Ukraine alone over 100 people have died of cold since last Friday, according to the country’s Health Ministry.