Two killed as late winter storm strikes Western Europe
At least two persons were killed when a late winter storm bringing heavy winds and snowfall struck western Europe, creating road, rail, sea and air traffic chaos, downing trees and damaging buildings from Germany in the north to Greece and Italy in the south.
In Austria, a Swiss woman was killed in a mass highway collision involving some 60 vehicles, which also left 37 persons injured.
Austrian police said the woman was hurled from her car in the collision and then run over by a lorry on the Vienna-Salzburg motorway amid heavy snowfalls and slick road conditions.
The autobahn, or motorway, was closed in both directions as rescue efforts involving dozens of ambulances and helicopters got underway. The efforts were hampered by ongoing heavy snowfall and poor visibility.
Austrian meteorological services were warning of "deep wintry conditions" as new snow continued to fall, dramatically increasing the danger of avalanches in the Alps.
At least 20 centimeters of new snow were measured in west and north Tyrol and up to a half meter of snowfall was expected by Tuesday evening. The latest snowfall has led to mass traffic delays on several roads.
Five centimeters of snow fell in valleys across Salzburg state and up to 30 centimeters have been forecast for Wednesday.
The snow storm also snarled traffic in Germany and the Netherlands as people were returning to work after the long Easter weekend.
Stranded vehicles blocked highways in the uplands of central and western Germany, with 15 trucks slewed across one slippery incline east of Cologne during the night and two coaches stalled on a highway near the city of Kassel.
Fatal accidents blamed on icy roads included a crash by a 77-year- old motorist in Baden-Wuerttemberg state.
In the Netherlands, departing flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam were delayed due to continuing snow, while train services were also affected. All train traffic to and from Rotterdam was suspended on Tuesday.
Dutch police said that overnight Tuesday, 37 road accidents took place due to slippery road. Among the highways closed partially due to accidents were the A12 running from The Hague in the west to Arnhem in the east, but also the busiest highway of the Netherlands, the A2 running from Den Bosch in the south to Amsterdam in the north.
Two accidents took place on the A2 highway, closing all but one lane in both directions.
The winter storm also made itself felt far to the south, affecting both Greek and Italian islands in the Mediterranean.
Greek radio reported that high winds disrupted ferry traffic, including ferry services being shut down in the port of Piraeus near Athens.
Transport links to many Aegean islands had been cut off for 24 hours because of the weather.
On the Sporades Island of Skopelos, high winds caused a small fire to grow out of control and destroy at least 60 hectares of pine forest, the radio reports said. Firefighters deployed aircraft to fight the blaze.
In southern Italy, hundreds of tourists were stranded in the Isole Lipari islands north of Sicily as heavy winds and seas forced the cancellation of ferry services to the Italian mainland.
Officials reported 5-metre-high waves crashing onto the coastline of the Calabria region of southern Italy, while officials on Sicily reported that trees and electricity poles had been toppled and the roofs of buildings damaged by heavy winds.
DPA with Expatica