Block of ice kills man in St Petersburg as snow piles up

Residents say Saint Petersburg is turning into a giant snowdrift (AFP Photo/OLGA MALTSEVA)

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Lawmakers in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg have called for a state of emergency after heavier than usual snowfall caused treacherous conditions and a man died when he was hit by a block of falling ice.

Public anger at icy pavements and mountains of snow has grown in recent weeks, with some locals even resorting to picketing municipal offices.

The group of local lawmakers has petitioned the city's governor to declare a state of emergency, accusing authorities of failing to deal with the problem and even asking the military to intervene.

Authorities have defended themselves saying they are doing everything they can to alleviate the problem.

"It's a complicated situation. Snow is falling daily. We see there is tension among the residents but we are working, we are doing everything possible," city official Sergei Sharlayev told journalists.

The local weather service branch said the city had experienced more than double the usual amount of snowfall for the time of year.

On Tuesday, a 23-year-old man was killed in the city centre when he was hit by a large piece of ice that fell from the roof of a building. Investigators have launched a criminal probe.

A video posted on the Facebook page Saint Petersburg Live claimed to show the incident. Two people were walking on the sidewalk and fell to the ground when a large block of ice hit them.

The page claimed a student from Uzbekistan died while the second person to be hit was taken to hospital.

"The city has turned into a giant snowdrift," said local resident Yelena Antonova, 43. Like thousands of others living in the city, she takes a shovel with her every day to dig out her car.

"I take almost two hours to get to work instead of the usual 40 minutes, it's chaos on the roads," she said.

Some residents are too scared to even go outside.

"I have not been out of my house for two weeks, I'm afraid of falling on the frozen pavements," said Marina Shibalova, 78.

Snow and falling icicles that can inflict deadly injuries have plagued Saint Petersburg for years.

A former governor Valentina Matviyenko, who is now the senate speaker, was nicknamed Madame Icicle after a video of her suggesting that icicles should be cut with lasers went viral.

Officials now say they have tasked over 7,500 people and 7,000 vehicles with clearing the snow.