At least eight people across Russia have died from the frigid weather as Arctic cold from Siberia descended on western Russia, sending night-time temperatures as low as minus 36 Celsius and prompting warnings of power cuts.

In Russia’s Volga region six people drowned when the ice broke under a minibus that was crossing a frozen river near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, state-run Rossia TV reported.

“There were 15 people in the vehicle, nine managed to escape and six drowned,” an official with the emergency ministry told the Interfax news agency. Interfax also reported two people had died of hypothermia in Moscow while another 14 were hospitalized with exposure.

Forecasters said the cold snap in the Moscow region could reach as low as minus 37 C towards the end of the week, as local authorities implemented measures to ensure the smooth functioning of public infrastructure amid the sudden plunge in temperatures.

State schools said students did not have to attend as long as the temperature remained under minus 20 C in the morning, while buses in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities were filled with special “Arctic” diesel fuel to minimize disruption.

The Moscow city government set up a special “headquarters to counter the Siberian freeze”, while in St. Petersburg emergency services were instructed to draw up plans for dealing with cold-related emergencies, the RIA-Novosti news agency said. Moscow energy officials issued warnings to about 200 companies and other organizations whose energy supplies might be reduced in order to conserve supplies.

The MFB stock exchange suspended trading mid-afternoon after being among those warned of a possible power shortfall. “The capital for the first time has come up against a situation where, due to the cold, its demand for energy may well exceed supplies,” said Nestor Serebryannikov, the former head of the Moscow municipal power utility.

However a spokesman for the Moscow energy department, Vasily Zaharov, told RIA-Novosti that the city’s power stations were “ready to work reliably during the cold temperatures”.

An honor guard will continue to stand to attention at the eternal flame commemorating World War II beneath the Kremlin walls, a spokesman for the Federal Security Guard said. “We of course take care of our soldiers,” the spokesman, Sergei Levyatov, told ITAR-TASS. “But there won’t be any felt boots. They’re wearing woolly socks under their boots.”

ITAR-TASS said 189 people had died in Moscow from the cold since October, of whom nearly 70 percent were in an inebriated state.