London Heathrow paralysed as Christmas travellers snowed in

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London Heathrow, the world's busiest international passenger airport, remained paralysed Sunday due to snowfalls that wrecked Christmas commuter plans in Britain.

While other airports around the kingdom were able to open, Britain's main air hub was struggling to clear ice that formed overnight, leaving thousands stranded in the terminals.

The west London airport was accepting no arrivals on Sunday, while only "a handful" of departures were leaving. Heathrow said it was concentrating on a "full re-opening on Monday".

British singer Lily Allen was among those stuck, posting a series of increasingly angry Twitter messages as she tried for some six hours to get on a flight at Heathrow before announcing: "Guess we're all kipping here."

Among other major airports, London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, Birmingham, Glasgow and Bristol were open but said the impact of the snow would lead to delays and cancellations.

"Today is Gatwick's busiest day of the festive getaway and we are doing everything we can to get passengers on their way and aircraft in the air," a spokeswoman for Europe's eighth-busiest passenger airport said.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair scrapped all flights from Gatwick, Stansted and Luton before 1000 GMT.

British Airways said it was working hard to sort out its flying schedule following a days of scrapped flights Saturday at Heathrow and Gatwick.

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.

National rail routes and trunk roads were also affected.

In Lancashire, northwest England, hundreds of people had to spend the night in their cars after an accident blocked the main north-south motorway.

Sporting events were also hit, with Sunday's three English Premier League matches postponed, including the big clash between title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United.

Temperatures plunged to minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus two degrees Fahrenheit) in Pershore, west central England.

The Met Office national weather service said snow falls this month have been the heaviest for December since 1981.

If the second half of the month is as cold as the first, this will be the coldest December on record in Britain since 1910.

© 2010 AFP

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