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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cold Kills 8 in Moscow, Blows West

APCommunists lining up in the cold to visit the Lenin Mausoleum on Saturday, the 82nd anniversary of Lenin's death.
A spell of Arctic cold claimed eight more lives in Moscow, pushing the nationwide toll close to 50, and killed nine people in Estonia, Ukraine and Moldova, delaying trains and slowing traffic, officials and media reports said Sunday.

Most of the victims in Moscow on Friday and Saturday were homeless or drunk people, the city emergency medical service said. Thirty-nine other people have been hospitalized with hypothermia, the service said.

The latest cold deaths have brought the death toll for Moscow -- locked in a deep freeze since last Monday -- to more than 20. The true figure, however, is likely higher because authorities in many regions were not reporting cold deaths.

The big freeze has spread beyond Russia's western borders, killing four people in Estonia, media reports said. Three people died in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, and two people froze to death in Moldova.

The cold also hit Poland, delaying trains, snarling traffic and prompting the Cabinet to allocate additional funds for homeless shelters and social services in an effort to protect poverty-stricken people. "We have to react to keep people from freezing," Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said.

In the eastern Podlaskie province, where temperatures plunged to minus 27 degrees Celsius, the cold triggered temporary power outages to 1,900 homes.

Unusually cold weather and heavy snowfalls also hit Turkey, where an avalanche swept a mountainous road and threw a passenger bus into a ravine on Saturday, killing eight and injuring 15 people, reports said.

Moscow temperatures on Sunday warmed to minus 21 C after Thursday's minus 31 C was the lowest on that date since 1927. The city weather service said temperatures in the capital were unlikely to rise above minus 20 C before Wednesday.

This winter is the coldest in the capital since 1978-79, when temperatures reached minus 38 C.

The cold has severely strained the infrastructure, with electricity use surging to record levels as towns and cities struggle to keep indoor temperatures up and Russians turn to supplemental heating sources, including electric radiators, to keep warm.

The use of gas heaters has resulted in several explosions. A gas canister exploded late Friday in an apartment building in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, injuring nine residents, the local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement.

Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

A St. Petersburger examining his car after a hot water pipe ruptured nearby.

And in the town of Gus-Khrustalny, some 160 kilometers east of Moscow, several gas canisters exploded on the ground floor of a five-story apartment building, killing at least one person and injuring 16 late Friday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Firefighters rushed to the scene but were having trouble extinguishing the flames because of bitterly cold temperatures around minus 30 C that were freezing water in the fire hoses.

Rescue workers evacuated 150 people from the building.

In the southern town of Apsheronsk, three people were killed when a gas canister exploded after it was improperly hooked to the heating system in a private home. And in the Caucasus republic of Adygea, a wood stove fire killed two people who were trying to heat their home.

The cold spell forced schoolchildren to stay home, while vendors at Moscow's outdoor food and clothing markets shuttered their booths and outdoor ATMs reportedly froze up.

Complaints about the cold came amid comical stories about coping by both man and beast. At a zoo in Lipetsk, south of Moscow, director Alexander Osipov said monkeys would be given wine three times a day "to protect against colds," RIA-Novosti reported.

Rossia television said a circus sea lion was being treated for pneumonia with brandy body rubs.