THE incredible chill in the hazy winter air left me gasping and coughing the moment I stepped outdoors.
Two minutes later tiny icy daggers needled my nose, cheeks, ears and any other flesh foolishly left exposed as I walked through the sub-zero city square.
Five more minutes and a numbness began penetrating the soles of my thick-soled boots and insulated gloves until the ends of my fingers and toes throbbed and ached.
And ten minutes later I found myself desperately seeking refuge as super-cooled air glued my glasses to my face and began freezing my eyeballs.
This is Yakutsk, in Siberia, the coldest city on earth, where temperatures have crashed as low as -64.4C (-83.92F)
Schools stay open
The Sun yesterday ventured to the frosted lair of the Beast from the East — the source of this week’s first blast of winter weather to hit Britain.
Yakutsk, 280 miles from the Arctic Circle, is home to 300,000 hardy souls. Bone-chilling winds from the vast wastes surrounding this city travel 7,000 miles to give Britain its most extreme winter weather.
It was -30C in Yakutsk yesterday — and tough locals couldn’t believe -5C winds had brought swathes of Britain to a shivering standstill this week.
Mum-of-three Oxana Guzainova, 31, walks through the city for 25 minutes every day to her estate agency office — and enjoys it!
Oxana — snug in a full-length sable fur coat and with her condensed breath frozen on the collar — said: “This is almost T-shirt weather for us. I find it hard to believe a few degrees below freezing causes so much chaos in England. In Yakutsk, everything works normally at -50.”
Receptionist Valeria Lyakhov, 22, said: “When the temperature drops below -50 you have to take care to protect every part of your body from the cold. It’s possible to get frostbite crossing the street. I’ve felt my nose and eyeballs freezing in extreme conditions.”
No railway reaches the city and travel options are limited to flying — a terrifyingly short, bumpy, frozen runway where passengers escaped a crash drama in October — or a 1,200-mile highway built by Stalin slaves dubbed “The Road of Bones”.
Every building in Yakutsk, which has summer temperatures as high as 40C (104F), is built on stilts sunk into the permafrost.
Heavily insulated pipework for water supplies and heating is also elevated above the frozen ground, creating crazy steaming tangles dubbed “the guts” of the city.
Official cold weather policy would shame UK snowflake headteachers, as Yakutsk primary schools always stay open as long as temperatures stay above -50C.
Locals use padded “car cozies” to cover vehicles and stop engines freezing solid. And taxi drivers run engines continuously for months to keep parts moving — adding to the city’s fug of pollution.
Copy these Siberian tips to stave off the chill as our weather turns colder.
- FUR. Not PC but elk and sable are outdoor favourites. Men wear tights and no one wears glasses outside.
- 40 PER CENT VODKA. Some say it only gives a burning taste.
- RAW LARD. Smoked or salted, it warms from the inside. Honey is good too, in tea or even vodka.
- WARM ENGINES. Taxis are left running day and night.
- BADGER/GOOSE FAT. Rubbed on, it lets heat get into muscles in a sauna.
- PHONES. Never used outside, common cause of frostbite.
- KUMYS. A hot milk drink.
- NOOKIE. Enough said.
Threat of frostbite is a constant challenge but locals know what to do. One granny told us yesterday: “If your nose or cheeks go white and numb or if you lose feelings in your hands put them in cold water. Never hot.”
Despite the cold, student teachers Kira Ivanova and Vilena Egorova, both 17, were smiling as they headed to class past ice sculptures being honed yesterday in preparation for New Year celebrations.
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Kira said: “I’ve experienced -56 here a few years back and everything carried on pretty much as normal — I guess we’re just used to it.
“So it’s hard for us to understand how people in Britain struggle to cope with any temperatures near to freezing.
“Siberian cold is our gift to you — from Russia with love.”
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