Russia’s Killer Icicles

By Sadie Bass

Mar 25, 2010 3:18pm

ABC's Alexander Marquardt reports from Moscow: Ah, spring.  The flowers come out, the birds are singing and the sun is shining. But in Russia, after brutally cold winters, it also means melting ice with sometimes fatal results. Toward the end of winter, blocks of ice plummeting to the sidewalks from the rooftops above are a common sight in Russian cities.  Often they will have been pushed off by municipal workers clearing the roofs, landing in areas that have been casually cordoned off with red and white tape. But every year there are scores of injuries and several deaths.  On Monday, a 55 year-old Moscow bookkeeper was killed when icicle fell on her head on her way to the bank.  A six-month old baby was hospitalized the same day in St. Petersburg when an icicle landed in her stroller.  In February, a 21 year-old St. Petersburg woman was walking along when she was hit by a block of ice that had been cleared off a roof, leaving her in a coma. "Milana was just walking past a building in the city center… There was no warning tape, nothing to alert people that people were working on the roof," the woman’s boyfriend told AFP. Russia is emerging from its coldest winter in three decades with record snowfalls and consequently a spike in ice-related accidents. In Moscow, 20 people were injured in a 24-hour period at the end of February, an emergency services official told a medical website.  The city of Sumara yesterday declared an emergency situation when two people were killed in the past week. In St. Petersburg this winter, 147 people have been hospitalized and five killed, according to AFP.  “The snowfalls this winter have been unprecedented, a kind of natural disaster. Unfortunately, there are victims," said the chief of St. Petersburg’s housing committee. St. Petersburg’s governor fired 11 officials and held pay for others last month for not doing enough to remove the city’s snow and ice. "Icicles should be removed with lasers or steam,” she said. “If St. Petersburg scientists throw up their hands and say that icicles should be removed using crowbars, we will use crowbars."

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