Heavy snow hits airports and roads across Europe

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Snow and freezing temperatures severely disrupted airports in Germany and Britain and caused chaos and deaths on roads across Europe on Tuesday.

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport in Germany, the continent's third busiest, while southern German states were blanketed by snow.

Large parts of Poland were covered in thick snow, causing hundreds of accidents on the roads and at least four people were killed in accidents on snowbound roads in the Czech Republic.

Switzerland suffered its coldest November night for 45 years as temperatures plunged below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), according to national weather service Meteosuisse.

Even Spain and Portugal were shivering after snow fell in the northern half of the Iberian peninsula.

Britain has been taken by surprise by its earliest widespread snowfall since 1993, forcing hundreds of schools in Scotland and rural parts of England to close and causing treacherous conditions on roads and at smaller airports.

Scotland and northeast England had fresh snowfall and the freezing weather has started moving down England's east coast while London had its first sprinkling of snow this winter.

London City Airport, a popular departure point for business travellers, was forced at one point to suspend all flights because of snow and ice before resuming with a heavily interrupted service.

Edinburgh, Scotland's busiest airport, was disrupted for a second day, but London's Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airports, said all its flights were operating normally.

Britain's Met Office issued severe weather warnings for most regions of the country and warned snow was heading south.

A 53-year-old man was crushed to death when a recovery truck rolled into two other vehicles in snowy conditions on a motorway near Doncaster in northern England, police said.

In Lincolnshire, eastern England, a man died when his car skidded into a ditch.

Scotland, on St Andrew's Day, its national day, recorded the coldest temperature in Britain overnight Monday with the mercury plunging to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit).

Thousands of schoolchildren had to stay at home in Scotland for a second day, while 42 schools were closed in picturesque Cornwall in southwest England because of snow.

But the bitter cold in London failed to deter several thousand students from taking part in the latest demonstration against the government's plans to raise university tuition fees.

In Germany, heavy snowfall blanketed the southern states of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony and even colder weather is forecast across the country later this week.

At Frankfurt airport, even when the runways were cleared of snow, aircraft had to be de-iced, causing further delays.

By mid-morning local time, a total of 128 arrivals and 80 departures had been cancelled, with many other flights experiencing significant delays, an airport spokeswoman said.

In the eastern German city of Leipzig, a playful snowball fight descended into a violent melee involving more than 500 people.

"The black-clad mob threw not only snow but also firecrackers, bottles and rocks," a police spokesman said.

Police had to intervene to break up the mob and two officers were wounded in the fray late Monday, while the driver of a passing car also fell victim as the mob smashed his windscreen with a beer bottle and injured his arm.

The Czech Republic experienced up to 25 centimetres (10 inches) of fresh snow in some cities, causing power cuts and travel disruption. Four people were killed and 80 were injured on the country's roads.

The Polish capital Warsaw was snarled up by huge traffic jams after 30 centimetres of snow fell since Monday.

Lorry drivers were stranded in their vehicles for 20 hours near Warsaw after a truck skidded and blocked the road.

© 2010 AFP

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