Victor Yushchenko suffers weeklong heating outage during a trip to eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Monday visited the Ukrainian city worst-hit by last week's frigid weather as officials scrambled to restore heating for tens of thousands after a more than weeklong breakdown. Some 60,000 residents of Alchevsk in the eastern Luhansk region remained without heat Monday, said Ihor Krol, spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. The shutdown occurred on Jan. 22 when one of the main pipes pumping hot water from a central boiler into apartment houses, schools and other municipal buildings froze and broke down.

"For a week already, Alchevsk ... resembles the frozen side of the Moon," Ukraine's Gazeta Po-Kievskiy declared. Ukrainian media broadcast images of residents sitting around kitchen tables bundled up in winter hats, coats and gloves. Work to restore the heating supply was continuing, with some 3,600 workers from across the country dispatched to the city to help, Krol said.

Yushchenko planned to visit facilities left without heat and hold talks with regional officials.

Last week's cold snap caused a record jump in gas consumption in Ukraine and led to the deaths of some 220 people as this country's aging and inefficient heating systems struggled to cope. Most of the deaths occurred in the Luhansk region; the Health Ministry has said many were homeless and intoxicated people.

Temperatures have since risen to more normal winter levels in Ukraine, with many schools and other businesses that had closed last week reopening Monday, reports the AP.


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