Frustration and laughs as Britain gets snowed in

3rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Frustration grew in Britain on Friday as the cold snap snarled up transport links but the funny side of life in the snow was also showing through.

London Gatwick reopened after a two-day shutdown, but other airports and rail services were out of action.

Britain is struggling to cope with its earliest widespread winter snowfall since 1993, with airports, major train lines and trunk roads all disrupted.

London Heathrow, the world's busiest international passenger air hub, saw dozens of short-haul flights cancelled due to snow at other airports.

There were delays and cancellations at London Luton, Glasgow and London City for the same reason.

Despite Gatwick finally clearing the runways, freezing fog meant few flights were leaving Europe's eighth-busiest passenger airport.

Issam Moussaoui, 28, and his wife Ahlem, have been stuck at Gatwick since Tuesday trying to get a flight back to Toulouse in France.

"We've been here sleeping on the floor like idiots. It's hell. You can hardly sleep because of the noise, the lights," he told AFP.

"We were even prepared to fly to Montpellier. They had us change tickets, but that plane was cancelled too.

"I've run out of money, so I've no other way of getting out of here. I've not even got anything left for some food.

"There's no guarantee we can leave today, let alone Saturday."

Elsewhere, Southampton and Humberside airports reopened but Doncaster-Sheffield was to remain shut until 1000 GMT Sunday.

Trying to leave Britain for warmer climes was no easier via road or rail.

Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, said it was running a revised timetable until Sunday, with 17 services cancelled Friday.

And traffic was queueing for the Channel Tunnel and the Port of Dover, the main vehicle routes to continental Europe.

Temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four Fahrenheit) in Braemar, Scotland, minus 15C (five F) in Edinburgh and minus 10C (14F) in Manchester.

Police in Newcastle, northeast England, reminded locals to wear a coat when they hit the pubs this weekend.

"Geordies" are famed for their indifference to cold weather but Northumbria Police issued the warning after temperatures dropped to well below minus 10C.

Meanwhile a woman in Chatham, southeast of London, called the emergency services to report the theft of a snowman.

Kent Police issued a transcript of the "completely irresponsible" call.

"There's been a theft from outside my house," the woman said.

"I went outside for a fag and he's gone.

"It ain't a nice road but you don't expect anybody to nick your snowman."

Convicted offenders were put to work in Brighton on the south coast clearing slippery streets.

Government ministers held an emergency meeting to discuss the cold snap. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has ordered a review of how transport operators have dealt with the weather.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said there were "no major concerns" over supplies of food, petrol, diesel or gas despite the continued freezing conditions.

© 2010 AFP

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