Snow causes travel chaos across Europe

21st January 2013, Comments 0 comments

Air, road and rail traffic across much of Europe suffered major disruptions on Monday as heavy snow and freezing weather gripped the continent.

The problems at airports were particularly severe, with flights scrapped at Europe's busiest three hubs.

Air passengers also faced long delays and disruptions at other airports in Germany, Britain and France, following widespread cancellations on Sunday.

More than one in 10 flights were scrapped at London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers, while 40 percent were scrapped in Paris and more than a quarter were wiped out at Frankfurt.

Heathrow decided to cut its flight schedule by 10 percent, or 130 flights, in expectation of poor visibility later in the day, but more than 180 services in total were cancelled as the day wore on.

"The additional cancellations are because a number of airports elsewhere in Europe are experiencing problems so that has a knock-on effect for us," a Heathrow spokesman said.

"The number could rise as the day goes on."

Flights were suspended at regional airports in northern and central England after fresh snow fell overnight, with planes grounded at Manchester, East Midlands and Leeds Bradford.

Under-sea train services between Britain and continental Europe were also hit, with Eurostar cancelling six trains linking London with Brussels and also Paris due to speed restrictions on the tracks in northern France.

At Germany's main air hub Frankfurt -- Europe's third-busiest airport after Heathrow and Paris' Charles de Gaulle -- 325 take-offs and landings were cancelled, a spokesman for operator Fraport told AFP.

In Munich, Germany's number two airport, some 161 flights -- or more than 15 percent -- were cancelled.

In France, the civil aviation authority DGAC said it expected to scrap 40 percent of flights to and from Charles de Gaulle and Paris' other main airport, Orly, in a precautionary measure following heavy snowfall on Sunday.

However, snow was no longer falling at either airport on Monday and the cleared runways were able to handle the reduced volume of traffic, said a spokeswoman for operators Aeroports de Paris.

In Spain, flights bound for Paris, Munich and Frankfurt were hit, leading to the cancellation of 16 flights to and from Barcelona.

Freezing rain and snow also led to treacherous conditions on railways and roads, causing countless accidents.

In southwestern Germany, police recorded more than 1,000 weather-related accidents and in the northeast, near Berlin, an entire section of motorway was shut to traffic.

In Belgium, three people died and two others were seriously injured when a minibus they were travelling in skidded off the road, overturned and caught fire at a motorway exit near Bruges, local authorities said.

In Moscow, unusually heavy snowfall of almost 50 centimetres (20 inches) caused traffic jams but did not affect flights at its airports, which are well-equipped for snowstorms.

The snowfall over the last four days in the Russian capital exceeded the average for the whole month of January, said Moscow Deputy Mayor Pyotr Biryukov.

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© 2013 AFP

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