Winter wonderland grounds Europe's traffic

A boy plays in the snow in Lyon, central France, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. Heavy snow and subzero temperatures swept across Europe, killing at least eight homeless people in Poland, closing major airports in Britain and Switzerland, and causing delays to rail and road traffic across the continent. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

December 2, 2010 6:44:46 AM PST
Freezing temperatures and often blinding snowfall shuttered airports across Britain on Thursday, delayed flights across Europe and forced thousands of passengers in Germany to spend the night in trains.

In neighboring Poland, the cold claimed 10 more lives, bringing the overall number of deaths to 18, Polish police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said. He urged Poles to report any homeless or drunk people on the streets to officers in hopes of saving their lives.

Authorities in Berlin also kept subway stations, soup kitchens and heated buses open all night to provide shelter for the city's homeless.

Gatwick Airport, one of Britain's busiest, was closed for a second straight day, canceling another 600 flights as conditions continued to deteriorate. Edinburgh Airport and London's City Airport were also closed until late evening, according to the Eurocontrol central control agency's website.

The agency also reported significant delays at London Heathrow, Paris' Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam's Schiphol, Berlin's Tegel and Duesseldorf airports.

In Geneva, the airport was able to reopen after removing 2,000 tractor-trailers full of snow from the airfield.

Travelers hoping to fare better by road or rail were equally stymied as snow continued to fall across the U.K. and most of Germany, leaving thousands of motorists stranded overnight in freezing temperatures.

Some 3,000 rail passengers were also stranded overnight and struggled to catch a few minutes' sleep in their trains, German railway operator Deutsche Bahn said.

Some 200 stranded passengers in Germany's Frankfurt hub spent the night in parked night trains after hotels filled up. Nothing was moving along many of the nation's high-speed train links, such as between Nuremberg and Leipzig in the south and east, or between Hamburg and the Danish capital Copenhagen in the north.

Southeastern Denmark was also badly hit, and heavy snow falls and icy winds severely hampered road and rail traffic across much of the country. The Danish army has been mobilized to help emergency vehicles, using tracked armored personnel carriers to help ambulances and other emergency vehicles cut their way through mounds of snow.

Heavy snowfall in Poland also disrupted the normal flow of planes and trains and created a treacherous situation on many of the country's already abysmal roads.

Thousands of Polish homes were left without electricity or heat as temperatures hovered around minus 10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). Several Romanian villages suffered a similar fate, while severe ice caused delays to traffic across the nation.

On many German roads, meanwhile, traffic was chaotic with hundreds of minor accidents due to heavy snowfall. Police in Berlin alone counted 121 accidents Thursday morning, spokesman Burkhardt Opitz said.

The heavy winter weather has claimed at least two lives in Germany, a 73-year-old in Lower Saxony who was struck by a train why trying to clear snow and an 18-year-old driver in Baden-Wuerttemberg, who lost control of his vehicle on an icy road and crashing head-on into a truck.

The cold has also taken a solid grip over Sweden, with the lowest temperatures overnight Thursday measuring minus 29.6 Celsius (85.28 Fahrenheit) in Lillhardal in the center of the country. In the Netherlands, a light dusting of snow also led to chaos and long traffic jams on the roads.

In southeastern Europe, meanwhile, Bosnian authorities declared a state of emergency and ordered evacuations after heavy rainfall caused severe flooding on the Drina river.

Schools closed, and half of the town has no electricity, city water is no longer drinkable. In nearby Gorazde, the federal army had to help evacuating people.

---

Cassandra Vinograd and Robert Barr in London, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Frank Jordans in Geneva, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Mike Corder in Amsterdam, Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm, Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia, contributed to this report.


Load Comments