Blizzards blast British airports
Britain was hit Saturday by more blizzards that shut down one major airport and forced airlines to scrap flights on what is traditionally the busiest weekend for travellers before Christmas.
London Gatwick, Europe's eighth-busiest passenger airport, shut its runway until at least 1500 GMT, warning that "further significant snowfall" was expected.
All British Airways flights departing from London Heathrow and from Gatwick between 1000 GMT and 1700 GMT were cancelled. Low-cost carrier easyJet also scrapped some flights from Gatwick.
"Heathrow is open and both runways are clear. However due to the adverse weather there are a number of cancellations and delays," the world's busiest international passenger airport said.
Elsewhere, Birmingham Airport in Britain's second city suspended flights until at least 1300 GMT, while Southampton Airport in southern England was closed until 1400 GMT.
Passengers also faced disruptions at other airports around the kingdom.
Carrier Virgin Atlantic said some delays were expected.
"We recognise what an important day it is for the travelling public so we are working very hard with both London Heathrow and Gatwick to complete as many flights today as possible," a spokesman said.
Meanwhile Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, was operating with speed restrictions that added up to an hour on journey times.
Temperatures dropped as low as minus 13 degrees Celsius (nine degrees Fahrenheit) in Chesham, southeast England overnight. Gatwick registered minus 11C (12F).
Forecaster Mark Seltzer, from the Met Office national weather service, predicted this could be Britain's coldest December on record, with a current average temperature of minus 0.7C (33.3F) -- five degrees Celsius below the long-term average.
He predicted up to 25 centimetres (10 inches) of snow could fall in some areas Saturday.
The chilly conditions did not deter some hardy souls in north London, who went for a swim in the unheated outdoor Parliament Hill lido, leaving their footwear in the poolside snow before stepping in.
Sporting events were also hit, with several football matches postponed, including English and Scottish Premier League fixtures.
All but one horse racing meet was called off and the European Cup rubgy union match between French club Toulouse and Glasgow was put back to Sunday due to the late arrival of the Scottish side and their kit.
© 2010 AFP