Cold spell leaves 123 dead in Russia

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A bitter cold snap in Russia has claimed 123 lives in the past 10 days, an official said on Tuesday.

The early freeze has tested authorities in a country used to notoriously difficult winters.

Temperatures have plunged as low as -30 C in the Moscow region and -60 C in eastern Siberia.

Lyubov Valiyeva, a member of the "Cryophil" winter swimming club, walks on the bank of the Yenisei River with the temperature at -25 C in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk on Wednesday. [Ilya Naymushin/Reuters]

"Since the start of the cold, 123 people have died of exposure and frostbite," a medical source was quoted by the Interfax News Agency as saying.

Another 833 people had to be hospitalized for hypothermia and frostbite, the source added.

Since the start of the cold snap, 1,745 people have been affected, and more than 800 have been hospitalized, the source said.

Television reports on Tuesday focused on the village of Khovu Aksy in Tuva, one of Russia's poorest regions in southern Siberia. A state of emergency was declared after the local power station failed, with temperatures of -40 C, hitting 4,000 residents.

With repair work on the power station hampered by the sub-zero conditions, some local people were taken to shelters at schools that had emergency heating systems.

"There is nothing, not even water, we have to melt snow, and the temperature at home is below zero," one bundled-up resident told Vesti-24 channel.

Some residents, including children, have been lifted by helicopter to the regional center of Kyzyl, the report said.

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