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Europe's big freeze: Danube shipping paralyzed

Ice on the Danube River has caused transportation delays in Eastern Europe. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.

SOFIA, Bulgaria - Bulgaria and Romania are suspending all shipping on the Danube River due to severe frost and the vast amount of ice blocking the heavily traveled waterway, Bulgaria's Transport Ministry said Wednesday.

Authorities say up to 90 percent of the river surface is covered with floating ice, making it extremely difficult to traverse Europe's main commercial waterway, which winds 1,777 miles (2,860 kilometers) from Germany through Austria and Hungary and serves as the natural border between Bulgaria and Romania as it flows out to the Black Sea.


Europeans across the continent have been battling a deep freeze that started in late January and has killed hundreds, trapped thousands behind snow in Balkan mountain villages and prompted worries of flooding as heavy snow melts. In Greece and Bulgaria, flooding on Monday and Tuesday left dozens of homes under water and at least eight dead.

Deadly floods follow in iced-over Europe

Romania and Bulgaria's decision come the day after Serbian emergency officials said the country's army will use explosives to break up ice on the Danube and Ibar rivers to try to prevent the possibility of flooding.

Elsewhere, strong wind knocked over power lines and left tens of thousands without electricity in Bosnia, potentially for the next several days.

In pictures: Europe's big freeze

Half of the town of Mostar, Bosnia's second largest city, is without power and snow piled some 2 1/2 feet (80 centimeters) is preventing teams from dealing with the problem, government spokesman Pero Pavlovic said.

People in Mostar fell into a "shopping hysteria", emptying shelves and in some cases getting into fist fights over flour, he said.

The harsh weather conditions that are being blamed for scores of deaths are expected to continue into next week. NBC's Kier Simmons reports.

The Polish Interior Ministry said Wednesday that six more people died as a result of the freezing weather. It also called on people be careful when using coal heaters, reporting that one person died of asphyxiation. The temperatures in the country fell at times to minus 26 F (minus 32 C).

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.