A Winter Dangerland

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Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Emergency room director Vassili Novak, at the North Estonia Medical Centre, can't remember during the last 10 years a time with so many weather-related injuries, which have so far left one dead in Estonia and several badly injured.

December had the most snow on record, leaving municipalities including the capital struggling to find funds and keep streets clear of massive quantities of snow. The weather has taken a dangerous turn to slush. 

Dozens have been injured, some very seriously. The streets are perilous for pedestrians, and a wrong step on a slippery city street can end awfully for the elderly. But much worse are the menacing dagger-like icicles that stretch to several meters from rafters, waiting to break off under their own weight from many stories up. 

On the evening of January 9, a tourist from St. Petersburg was hit by one such icicle in Tallinn's Old Town. Across the Gulf of Finland, in Helsinki, another man was killed instantly on January 10.

Removing snow and ice can be just as hazardous. Many homeowners try to save money, preferring to clean their rooftops themselves, sometimes without climbing ropes and other safety gear.

When the mountain of snow pushing down on buildings is not cleaned up fast enough, roofs can cave in. A 26-year-old man died last week, after falling 10 meters onto a concrete floor from a farmhouse roof that collapsed. He died two days after the accident in a Tallinn clinic. 

Older houses are especially at risk. In a countryside town, a woman was rescued from her home on January 10, after her roof fell through while she was sleeping. 

On the island of Saaremaa, the roof of a schoolhouse also collapsed on January 11, reported Meie Maa. "The snow came with such a great force [from the top of a higher part of the building onto the roof of a lower wing] that there was nothing that could be done," said the school's administrative director, Aado Haandi. "It was impossible to send a person on the roof to remove the snow. Lives are more important."

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