European cities’ first nighttime cold spell of the winter saw the number of fatalities surge as temperatures plunged – with Stockholm, Stockholm’s central town and most populous neighbourhood, recording the highest recorded death toll yet.
The city’s residents and emergency services recorded 53 deaths during the cold spell as temperatures plunged to -10.5C overnight Monday to Tuesday. That surpassed the previous record of 42 overnight deaths recorded in the city on 1 January.
Sven Akerqvist, general manager at Stockholm’s central hospital, confirmed the higher death toll during the cold spell.
“We’ve seen some very tragic deaths in the past few days. In the two weeks leading up to the cold spell our number of deaths went from about 20 to the last two nights,” Akerqvist said.
He noted that while most of the deaths involved elderly men, two women, both aged 85, died of heart failure.
In neighboring Brå Öschel, authorities said on Tuesday that they were investigating 10 possible cold-related deaths during the 24-hour period. The new record there of three deaths was surpassed just hours earlier in the central Swedish city of Bryggen, as the temperature there plunged to -11C.
In the city of Gothenburg, where the mercury fell to -10C overnight Monday, the city authorities announced that they would impose a daily curfew at 23:00 local time (1900 GMT).
“The temperature is expected to drop below -8C until 11:00 tomorrow, and the temperature will drop lower still on Thursday,” announced the city’s commercial and economic affairs department’s commissioner, Carl Pohjanpalo.
The Scandinavian province of Östergötland had seen three deaths during the same period, while in northern Sweden the toll was two, according to the local city authorities.
Stockholm has already experienced colder winter weather this year, which saw Sweden on its coldest winter in decades with lows of -18C. In September and October, temperatures plunged to -20C in several Swedish cities, while in Oulu in northern Finland, a weather station recorded temperatures as low as -40C.
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Winter already did serious damage to economic growth across the region. Between October and November, gross domestic product across 11 member states, excluding France, grew by 0.2% or less, compared with a growth rate of 1.4% in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier.
Meteorologists warned of “another couple of cold days for the upper part of the Nordic region” with lows in Oulu expected to reach -20C as temperatures fell to -13C overnight in Stockholm and some northern Swedish cities.
“The cold spell will continue until Thursday when temperatures will have some respite,” Akerqvist said.