Parts of central Europe have been devastated by blizzards and freezing rain. A quarter of homes in Slovenia have been left without electricity after heavy snow and ice caused the collapse of power lines.

The Slovenian government said that more than 40 per cent of the country's Alpine forests have been damaged. Defence Minister Roman Jakis said during an emergency government meeting that the country has been hit by "a large-scale natural disaster."

Serbian government minister Aleksandar Antic said that more than 5,000 people have been evacuated in the past few days. Authorities used a military helicopter, tanks and armoured vehicles to reach stranded people.

In the southern Austrian province of Carinthia, bordering Slovenia, up to 3,000 homes were without electricity. Two rail routes connecting Austria with Italy were closed.

In southeastern Poland, some 20 villages were cut off by snow drifts.