The Associated Press

Bosnia used helicopters yesterday to evacuate the sick and deliver food to thousands of people stranded by its heaviest snowfall ever.

Pope Benedict XVI donned an overcoat to bless the few pilgrims who braved Rome's unusual cold to visit St. Peter's Square. "The snow is beautiful, but let's hope spring comes soon," the pope told them, looking out over remnants of Rome's biggest snowstorm since 1986.

Across Eastern Europe, thousands of people continued to dig out from heavy snow that has fallen during a cold snap that struck more than a week ago and has killed hundreds of people.

In hardest-hit Ukraine, the temperatures have fallen as low as minus 33 Fahrenheit. The government said yesterday Ukraine's death toll is at 131, including many homeless people. About 2,300 others have sought treatment for frostbite or hypothermia.

At the other end of Europe, Britain had its first snowfall of the winter Saturday, up to 6.3 inches, forcing Heathrow Airport in London, Europe's busiest, to cancel flights and stranding many drivers overnight on highways.

Stansted, Birmingham and Luton airports suspended operations overnight as snow piled up on runways, but resumed operations yesterday.

In Bosnia, more than 100 remote villages have been cut off by 6 1/2 feet of snow in the mountains. More than three feet fell in Sarajevo, the capital, where a state of emergency has been declared.

Three helicopters cruised over eastern Bosnia yesterday, delivering food and picking up people who needed evacuation.

On the ground, rescuers managed to get through to dozens of people trapped in their cars on roads cut off by avalanches in eastern Bosnia. Near Kalinovik, they found several scared and freezing people in their cars.

"There were 15, 20 cars trapped in snow for 20 hours. We barely managed to pull the people out and we are now flying them home with helicopters. It was hell," said rescue worker Darko Rojic.

In Rome, the pope managed to keep his Sunday appointment at the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, still covered with snow from the day before. Bundled up in a white overcoat, he blessed an unusually small crowd of pilgrims.

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