Snowstorms kill four, bring traffic chaos to Europe

25th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

Snowstorms swept across Europe, killing four people, stranding thousands of air travellers and leaving hundreds of drivers trapped on jammed roads.

PARIS, Jan 24, 2007 (AFP) - Snowstorms swept across western and centralEurope for a second day on Wednesday, killing four people, stranding thousands of air travellers and leaving hundreds of drivers trapped on freezing, logjammed roads.

A 72-year-old woman died in the southern Spanish city of Seville when a tree branch fell on her head in high winds, while three people died in German road accidents, including a bus driver, who had a head-on collision with a lorry.

A fifth person became an indirect casualty of the weather when his vehicle collided with a gritting vehicle.

The sudden wintry snap, which follows a period of unseasonably warm weather across Europe, was nevertheless welcome relief for ski resorts in the French and Swiss Alps, many of which had previously been unable to open for lack of snow.

Up to 70 centimetres (28 inches) of snow fell in the Swiss mountains, 20 centimetres in northern Spain and 30 centimetres in southern Germany. More snow was forecast over the next three days.

More than 100,000 people were without power on Wednesday.

Power lines to 65,000 homes in remote parts of central France were still down after being severed by falling trees and the weight of snow. State electricity provider EDF could not say when they would be repaired.

Some 20,000 people in freezing northwestern Russia endured their fourth day of a blackout that was not due to end until Friday. In Austria, where 12,000 households were cut off, efforts to reconnect power lines were hampered by the risk of falling trees.

Wintry weather left thousands of travellers stranded at airports in Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

It even hindered powerbrokers seeking to reach the Swiss mountain resort of Davos to make their keynote speeches on the first day of the World Economic Forum.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel embarked on the 150-kilometre (90-mile) road journey through the mountains from Zurich airport when the helicopters ferrying political and business leaders to Davos were grounded for the entire day.

"People forget that sometimes it snows in winter," said a spokeswoman for the airport, which cancelled 32 European flights and many long-haul ones on Wednesday morning.

In Germany road and air traffic were disrupted, with 37 and 200 flights being cancelled at Stuttgart and Munich airports respectively and more than 1,000 accidents on the country's roads and 25 kilometres of traffic jams in places.

Prague airport, the busiest in central Europe, was shut throughout Wednesday with 345 flights scrapped and was not expected to reopen before 0500 (0400 GMT) on Thursday.

Another 120 flights were cancelled at Rome airport in Italy, which saw heavy snow and violent winds.

London's Heathrow airport cancelled 13 short-haul flights and there were multiple disruptions on London Underground trains.

Strong winds forced Portuguese airline SATA to cancel eight flights on within Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago, stranding 160 passengers, an airline spokesman said.

The grounded flights were between the islands of Faial, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Sao Miguel and Terceira, he said.

On the roads there was traffic chaos in Austria, Denmark, France and Spain.

In France there was relief for motorists after the Paris-Lyon motorway was reopened after being closed for 24 hours, leaving many stranded.

And one intrepid nurse did his rounds by tractor as the snow had made the roads impassible.

Dozens more drivers spent a freezing night at the wheel in southern Austria, trapped in an eight-kilometre (five-mile) tailback caused by lorries blocking the road.

Snow closed mountain roads and motorways in Austria and northern Spain and several Austrian families were evacuated from their homes because of the threat from falling trees.

Scandinavia, which is used to snow, experienced little disruption other than a pile up on a Danish motorway that wrecked 50 cars but caused no casualties.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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