Ice skaters in Amsterdam taking advantage of a cold snap that froze the city's famous canals for the first time in three years have been rescued after falling through the thin crust into the frigid waters below.
One video posted on social media shows a group of at least six people being pulled from a canal by bystanders using rope and hockey sticks, some putting themselves at risk by venturing onto thin ice sheets for the rescue effort.
Another video shows a man clad only in skates and underpants falling heavily through the ice on the Keizersgracht canal before being dragged out of the water by a fellow skater.
A deep freeze gripping Europe brought snow to cities as far away as Athens, with Greece receiving its heaviest falls in a decade.
The cold spell briefly made it possible to skate on a small section of Amsterdam's canal system for the first time since 2018.
People skated and walked on a small stretch of ice between two bridges close to the landmark Westerkerk before growing cracks forced most to solid ground.
Locals have been warned not to skate on the canals.
COVID lockdown prompts swimmers to go wild
Besides those accidentally finding themselves in the frigid canals, there is a growing cadre of "wild swimming" devotees in the Netherlands, preaching the benefits of "cold therapy".
They say a dip in icy water boosts the immune system, reduces stress, and improves sleep and mental health.
Anecdotal evidence suggests more people are turning to wild swimming after months of lockdown have shut indoor swimming pools and left people cooped up at home.
"People are becoming more curious and interested in taking responsibility for their own health, physical and mental," healthcare psychologist and wild swimmer, Aileen Kennedy, said.
- ABC, AP, Reuters
© ABC, AP, Reuters 2021
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