Cold snap wreaks havoc across Europe

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures have killed at least 30 people across Europe as well as severely disrupting air, rail and road transport.

At least 29 people froze to death in Poland as temperatures fell far below freezing, while in southern Germany a figure of -33C (-27F) was recorded.

Moscow said it was deploying 9,000 snow ploughs to clear the city's streets.

Flights have been cancelled and Eurostar passenger trains are still not running after electrical failures.

More than 55,000 travellers had journeys cancelled after six trains broke down, in what Eurostar said was unprecedented winter weather in France.

The company hopes to announce on Monday evening when services between England, France and Belgium would resume.

Second wave of snowstorms

In Poland, police appealed for people to help if they came across homeless or drunk people lying outside as temperatures dropped towards -20C in some areas. Most of those who froze to death over the weekend were homeless.

Meanwhile, one restaurant owner offered tens of thousands of homeless people a hot meal in Krakow's main square.

"The food is not the only important thing," restaurateur Janusz Kosciuszko was quoted as telling Euronews.

"What is also important is that these people know that someone is thinking about them."

Elsewhere in Europe, two people were reported dead in Austria's southern province of Styria as they tried to get home after nights out.

In France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, airport operators struggled to clear runways amid thick snowfall, with major disruption to flight patterns.

In France, 40% of flights out of Paris's Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were cancelled as a second wave of snowstorms hit the country's north.

Charles de Gaulle warned as many as one in five flights were likely to be cancelled on Monday.

Germany's third largest airport - in Duesseldorf - was also closed because of Sunday's heavy snow, authorities said.

In Belgium, the three biggest airports - Brussels, Charleroi and Liege - were completely shut. Severe delays and cancellations were reported at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

In Britain, officials at Manchester Airport - the busiest outside the London area - suspended flights for 90 minutes as staff moved snow and de-iced a runway.

The weather also affected rail travel across northern Europe, with Austrian trains brought to a standstill because of frozen points.



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