Red Cross issues warning over severe winter weather in Europe

Published: 9 January 2017

Budapest, 9 January 2017—The Red Cross is urging people to protect themselves against severe weather as sub-zero temperatures continue to freeze Europe.

This month’s cold snap has seen temperatures drop to -30 degrees Celsius in some countries and is reported to have claimed up to 40 lives. Red Cross emergency teams are working across the worst-hit areas to provide warm clothes, hot food, blankets and first aid to people caught in severe weather.

“Our volunteers are on the ground from Turkey to northern Europe where severe winter weather is putting vulnerable people at serious risk,” said Simon Missiri, Regional Director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe.

“We’re urging people to stay indoors where possible and to make sure that they are equipped with emergency supplies like food, water and flash lights, and stay tuned to weather forecasts.”

According to recent reports, 24 people are believed to have died in eastern Ukraine while ten deaths are reported in Belarus and a further ten in Poland. 

“Our volunteers have helped hundreds of drivers who have become stranded in the snow,” said Missiri. “If travel cannot be avoided, it is vital that that people stay on main roads and have emergency kits and fully charged phones.”

Asylum seekers and refugees living in camps and sleeping outdoors across Europe are at high risk, as well as homeless people and the elderly.

“Our volunteers are working in camps across Europe where people have been suffering in poor conditions for months,” Missiri added. “This harsh weather is compounding their misery and putting them in danger.”

In Greece, the Hellenic Red Cross is providing food, blankets, clothing and medical care, while the Red Cross in Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is providing hot food, clothing and important information to migrants and local communities.

In southern Italy, the Red Cross is patrolling streets to provide food and warm clothing to homeless people. One person is reported to have died from exposure to the elements. Emergency teams are also transporting stranded patients to hospitals in other parts of the country. In Bulgaria, the Red Cross is running crisis centres for homeless people and giving out information on how to combat frostbite and hypothermia.

In Belarus, where ten people are reported to have died, the Red Cross has set up heated tents to provide hot food, shelter and warm clothes for almost 10,000 people. The teams have also been out on roads, helping drivers stranded in deep snow, as well as providing homeless people living in rubbish dumps with food, blankets, first aid and medical care.

In addition, hot food is also being given out by Red Cross teams in Romania and Poland as temperatures remain below zero.

Spokespeople are available for interviews.  For more information, contact:


In Budapest:

Nichola Jones, communications manager, IFRC Europe
Email: | Tel: +36 70 430 6506  | Twitter: @nicjones81


In Geneva:

Benoit Carpentier, team leader, public communications, IFRC

Mobile: +41 79 213 2413  Email: