- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2012

BELGRADE, Serbia — Heavy snow and a severe cold snap killed at least 36 people across Eastern Europe, and many areas were under emergency measures Monday as schools closed down, roads became impassable and power supplies were cut off.

As temperatures dropped to about minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, authorities opened emergency shelters and urged people to be careful and remain indoors.

Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Ministry said 18 people died of hypothermia in recent days and nearly 500 people sought medical help for frostbite and hypothermia in just three days last week. Twelve of the dead were homeless people, whose bodies were discovered on the streets.

Temperatures in some regions of Ukraine plunged to 3 F during the day and minus 10 F during the night. Authorities opened 1,500 shelters to provide food and heat and shut down schools and nurseries.

At least 10 people froze to death in Poland since Friday as the cold reached minus 15 Fahrenheit.

Malgorzata Wozniak, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Interior Ministry, told the Associated Press that elderly and homeless people were among the dead and police were checking unheated empty buildings to make sure homeless people don’t freeze to death.

Early Monday, temperatures fell to minus 15 Fahrenheit in southern Poland.

Until Friday, Poland had been having a mild winter with little snow and temperatures just below the freezing mark.

In central Serbia, three people died and two more were missing and 14 municipalities throughout the country were under emergency plans. Efforts to clear roads of snow were hampered by strong winds; dozens of towns faced power outages.

Police said one woman froze to death in a snowstorm in a central village, while two elderly men were found dead, one in the snow outside his home. Farther south, emergency crews are searching for two men in their 70s who are feared dead.

In neighboring Bulgaria, a 57-year-old man froze to death in a northwestern village and an emergency “code orange” was declared in 25 of the country’s 28 districts. In the capital, Sofia, authorities set up rescue spots where hot tea was distributed and placed homeless people in emergency shelters.