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Russia's deep freeze: dozens die, feels like 50 below

The temperature in Siberia is reaching lows not felt in more than half a century as the mercury dips to 42 degrees below zero and the air instantly freezes boiling water. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Americans feeling their first wintry blast of the season on Wednesday could take some comfort from this: In Moscow it felt like 10 below – part of a week-long cold spell across Russia that has parts of Siberia feeling like 50 below. 

Across Russia, the deep freeze killed at least 45 people over the last week, 21 on Tuesday alone, the English-language Moscow Times reported Wednesday. Nearly 270 people were hospitalized, more than half with frostbite.

Russia's emergency ministry urged everyone in Moscow to stay indoors on Wednesday, while forecasters said the cold could get worse over the weekend.

Siberia has been hardest hit, with cities like Novosibirsk dipping to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday. With the wind chill, it felt like minus 47.

The temperatures have been abnormally low for Russia at this time of year.

Related: US snowstorm threatens travel

Last week, the cold in Siberia nearly killed two circus elephants after their trailer caught fire, the RIA news agency reported.

A handler quickly devised a plan, buying two cases of vodka from a nearby village and serving it to the elephants -- albeit diluted with warm water.

"After that they roared as if they were in the jungle. Apparently they were happy," the unnamed handler was quoted as saying.

Valery Titievsky / AFP - Getty Images

A woman walking in Novosibirsk, a city in Russia's Siberia, reflects the cold there on Wednesday. Temperatures dipped to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit -- and the wind chill made it feel like minus 47.

Neighboring Ukraine has also felt the freeze -- 37 people have died there so far this month because of subzero temperatures, the government said Tuesday.

The cold followed storms that left some areas with nearly two feet of snow.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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