Rare snowfall in Rome as 'beast from the east' brings record low temperatures

A nun walks under a snowfall in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
A nun walks under a snowfall in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.

The Arctic storm dubbed the "Beast from the East" set record low temperatures across much of Europe and brought a rare snowstorm to Rome, paralysing the city and giving its residents an unusual chance to ski, sledge and build snowmen in its famous parks and piazzas.

Rome's train, plane and bus services were crippled and Italy's civil protection agency even mobilised the army to help clear slush-covered streets as a city more accustomed to mild winters was covered by a thick blanket of snow.

Two women take a selfie in front of the ancient Colosseum during a snowfall, early Monday

Two women take a selfie in front of the ancient Colosseum during a snowfall, early Monday

Elsewhere, the storm set dangerously low temperatures. Meteorologists in Germany reported a record low for this winter of minus 27C on the Zugspitze mountain in the Alps.

Moscow recorded its coldest night this winter, with the mercury dipping to nearly minus 20C on Sunday night.

The intense winter weather has been dubbed "The Beast from the East", with Siberia cited as the source of the frigid temperatures.

In Croatia, about 1,000 soldiers joined in the clearing operations in the worst-affected areas, where more than 5ft was reported.

A collision between a truck and a bus in a snow-covered north-western region of the country left 14 people seriously injured.

The accident happened in the mountainous Gorski Kotar area, which has been worst-affected by the harsh winter weather. The two drivers are in a critical condition.

Officials in Lithuania said the low temperatures claimed the lives of at least three people over the weekend in the Baltic nation's capital.

Emergency medical officials in Vilnius reported that seven other people suffered substantial frostbite to their hands and feet in the past few days.

The Hydrometeorological Service said temperatures plunged as low as minus 24C in the central Lithuanian town of Ukmerge on Sunday and Monday.

Baltic neighbour Latvia reported that eight people have been rushed to hospital with hypothermia and frostbite due to the cold spell.

Estonia's state weather service is forecasting the cold spell to remain in the Baltic region throughout this week, with temperatures expected to drop to minus 29C in some areas.

Rome saw just a few inches of snow, but it was enough to close schools. Parks that usually stay green through winter were blanketed with snow, giving eager Romans a rare opportunity to go sledging, snow-shoeing or skiing. Even the Circo Massimo became a hotspot for snowball fights, while Piazza Navona, with its famed Bernini fountains, turned into a winter wonderland.

Rome's Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea usually result in mild winters.