Death Freeze Grips Europe, Killing 80

Image credit: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

ABC News' Simon McGregor-Wood reports:

The severe cold weather currently gripping Eastern Europe has now spread to Italy and as far south as Turkey.

As many as 80 people have died, mainly in Ukraine and Poland, as the death freeze settles over the continent.

Dan Britton, a press officer at Britain's Met Office, told ABC News the cold weather stems from "a large area of high pressure sitting over Eastern Europe, which has brought about cold temperatures over quite a large area."

The Ukraine has suffered the most fatalities as emergency ministries confirmed 43 people had perished in minus-28 degree temperatures.

While hospitals in Ukraine have treated more than 600 people for frostbite and pneumonia, many of the dead were homeless people who were unable to find shelter at night.

As Poland experienced minus-22 degree conditions, seven more deaths have been confirmed. Five were said to be homeless people.

Several people have also died in the Baltic states - the Czech Republic, Serbia, Bosnia and Romania and Bulgaria - where until now temperatures had been well above normal for midwinter.

The heavy snow has caused transport chaos across Europe.

The German media reported the death of one woman was a result of her losing control of her car on the icy roads.

Heavy-goods vehicles have been barred from the freeways in Central Italy and cargo ships have been warned of ice floes on the Danube.

Even some areas of Romania's Black sea coastline have reportedly frozen over.

Forecasters have confirmed that this area of high pressure has come from Siberia.

"These kind of weather conditions occur every 20 to 30 years, last time in 1986 and 1956," Jurik Muller of the German Meteorological Service said.

With snow now falling in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey, the weather is likely to continue throughout the weekend.