Serbia urges citizens to save power in big freeze

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia was struggling to keep its power system going, officials warned Thursday, after weeks of record low temperatures in Europe that have snarled traffic, frozen rivers and challenged officials to step up outreach to the vulnerable homeless.

The Serb state power company said its system cannot hold on for much longer and authorities urged citizens to save electricity in an appeal aired on national television.

Europe’s big freeze has claimed hundreds of lives, mostly of homeless people, while tens of thousands of residents remain trapped in remote villages in Bosnia and Serbia and other hard-hit areas.

In many European capitals, authorities have set up extra shelters for the homeless to help them survive the cold snap that has seen temperatures sink as low as minus 33 Fahrenheit.

In Berlin, rescue vans loaded with food and clean sheets are picking up those in need and taking them to shelters.

The cold and snow have blocked roads, halted shipping on rivers, and forced schools to close in many countries. In Serbia, the power company warned of restrictions unless electricity consumption is reduced. The company said it can only meet the present level of demand for a week longer, and announced that heavy industry will be switched off first.

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