KIEV — Ukraine on Monday blamed alcohol abuse as the main cause of deaths caused by a spell of abnormally cold weather that has claimed at least 135 lives over the last 10 days.
"The main reason for the deaths is alcohol abuse," said Grygoriy Marchenko, the head of rescue forces at the Ukrainian emergencies ministry.
He told reporters that the most dead were recorded in the heavily industrial and densely-populated Donetsk region in the east of the country. "The government has done all it could for people to find help," he added.
Marchenko said 135 people are now confirmed to have died as a result of the cold weather, raising Sunday's toll of 131. Some died on their homes or in hospitals but most froze to death on the streets.
He said that more than 3,300 shelters had been set up where those in need could find warmth and basic hot food, while the government ordered railways stations and cafes not to "chase out" homeless people seeking to warm up.
Temperatures have eased slightly in the last two days but could again plunge as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius at the end of this week, forecasters said.
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