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Winter storm hits Ukraine killing five and leaving hundreds of towns and villages in darkness

Rescuers push a car during heavy snowfall in Odesa region (UKRAINIAN EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP)
Rescuers push a car during heavy snowfall in Odesa region (UKRAINIAN EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP)

A severe snowstorm has hit central and southern Ukraine, killing five and forcing nearly 2,500 people to be rescued.

The country’s Odesa region, which lies on the shores of the Black Sea, has been hit by severe snowstorms since Sunday, stranding vehicles and downing power lines.

At least five have died in Ukraine, while three more people have lost their lives as a result of the snowstorm in neighbouring Moldova. At least 19 people were injured in Ukraine and a further 10 in Moldova.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in his nightly video address, suggested there might be more fatalities elsewhere.

Forecasters said more bad weather was on the way, with snow and rain forecast throughout Ukraine on Tuesday.

The extreme weather struck as tens of thousands of troops man front-line positions in the 21-month-old war with Russia amid fears Moscow could attack the power grid with air strikes this winter.

Forecasters say more bad weather is on the way (REUTERS)
Forecasters say more bad weather is on the way (REUTERS)

Emergency services said the power remained out in 882 localities. Traffic was halted on 10 highways and more than 1,500 trucks were stranded.

Schools were closed in both southern Ukraine and in Moldova.

High winds left drifting snow up to six feet deep in some places, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.

Ukrainian authorities shared images of damaged power grid facilities, toppled trees and rescuers helping people to climb out of drifts and towing cars away from snow-covered roads.

Central Kyiv and southern Odesa and Mykolaiv regions were the hardest hit by the power cuts, with 40,000 homes initially affected in Kyiv region, authorities said.

By 6.30pm, more than 15,000 homes in the region were still without electricity.

In Moldova, two people were found frozen to death in a car in the east of the country and another outside the capital.

Ukraine's border service said that two border crossings in Odesa region to Moldova reopened after a temporary suspension on Sunday, but traffic conditions remained difficult.