WARSAW, Jan 29, 2006 (AFP) - Frigid weather took its toll across Europe over the weekend, as at least 66 people were killed when a roof collapsed in heavy snow in Poland and snow cut off roads and paralysed transport in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The Polish tragedy happened near the southern industrial Polish city of Katowice on Saturday when the roof of an exhibition centre collapsed under the weight of deep, heavy snow, in temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees F).

Despite a massive rescue operation that ran through the night in icy temperatures that fell to minus 17 degrees C (one degree Fahrenheit), 66 people died and 141 were injured in what Polish President Lech Kaczynski has called the "biggest catastrophe in democratic Poland".

Life started to return to normal in France with snow warnings were lifted in most areas, but with the south west continuing to be battered by ice and snow.

Over the weekend heavy snow had disrupted travel on motorways especially in central France, forcing some roads to be closed. Rail traffic was hampered in southern France, Switzerland and northern Italy, cutting some Alpine villages off altogether. Four skiers were killed and two missing Sunday in avalanches in the French Alps in eastern France.

Snow and rain also battered much of Portugal and Spain, forcing the closure of roads to traffic.

Spain's national traffic office said some 22 mountain passes and 36 motor routes were affected, with the Catalan region in northeast Spain was especially hard hit.

Even southern Spain has not escaped from the cold snap. In Ecija, known as the "oven of Andalusia" for its extremely hot temperatures during the summer, was partially covered with snow on Sunday for the first time in 30 years.

Two car crashes on Spanish roads Saturday left seven people dead and 42 others injured, rescue services said.

In Portugal, snow fell on the capital Lisbon for the first time in 52 years forcing the closure of five highways in the center of the country, rescue officials there said Sunday.

The icy roads led to several accidents in central and northern Portugal where the mercury fell to minus six degrees Celsius, a rare temperature in the southern European nation.

The weather continued to take its toll in Germany where an elderly man froze to death in the east of the country at the weekend, police said, bringing to eight the death toll in the cold spell.

The temperature dropped to minus 15 degrees Celsius in parts of Saxony, which borders on the Czech Republic, overnight Saturday.

There was relief for citizens in Georgia, as Russian gas supplies resumed a week after a series of mysterious explosions sabotaged the main pipeline between the two countries, leaving people shivering in their apartments.