Europe's icy blast claims more lives

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People help push a stranded Garda police car amid the snowfall in Ireland's Dublin area | Photo from Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images

(CNN) — A cold snap gripping Europe continued to take a toll into the weekend, with three more deaths reported in Poland.

The number of weather-related deaths in the country has risen to 18 since Monday, Anna Adamkiewicz of the Government Center for Security said Saturday.

Authorities in Mantua, Italy, said Saturday that a homeless person, described as a foreign citizen, 52, was found dead the previous evening.

Six people have also died in Spain, the Spanish Interior Ministry said Friday.

The frigid temperatures of the past few days are starting to ease in parts of the continent, however.

Warnings for wintry conditions remain in countries such as Ireland, Germany, Italy and Norway, according to Meteoalarm. But warnings for extreme low temperatures or snow and ice have been lifted in Hungary and Serbia.

Airports reopen

With the weather improving, some airports reopened Saturday after treacherous conditions had halted services the previous two days.

These include Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland as well as Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands and Switzerland's Geneva Airport. Passengers were warned their flights could be affected by the earlier disruption and cancellations.

In the United Kingdom -- where freezing winds from Siberia, dubbed the "Beast from the East," combined Friday with Storm Emma to bring additional snow and ice -- temperatures started to rise gradually Saturday.

The UK Met Office forecast more rain, sleet and snow but said conditions would ease in southern England. Warnings are still in place in parts of northern England, Wales and Northern Ireland for ice and in Scotland for snow.

London's Heathrow Airport said it is working to "deliver a near full schedule" Saturday, while London's Gatwick Airport said it is operating "a largely normal service with a small number of delays and cancellations."

Cardiff Airport in Wales and Edinburgh Airport in Scotland were also operating Saturday with some flight delays.

Many road and rail passengers continued to suffer disruption across the United Kingdom on Saturday.

Polar vortex disrupted

Much of Europe has been blanketed in snow this week, with rare falls of the icy stuff in the south of France, Spain and Italy.

The current cold snap was triggered by a disruption to the stratospheric polar vortex -- a doughnut of air 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) across that forms high up in the atmosphere above the Arctic Circle every winter, according to Simon Clark, a researcher of stratosphere-troposphere interactions in Bristol, England.

Now and again -- perhaps six times every decade -- the vortex gets split in two, a phenomenon known as sudden stratospheric warming.

The disruption allows icy Arctic air to spread farther south, often lowering temperatures across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

"That big mass of Arctic air -- which is normally trapped over the poles, so it's really freezing cold -- is then able to spill further south," Clark told CNN.

This story was first published on, “Europe's icy blast claims more lives."