Tue, Dec 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Heavy snow causes travel chaos in northern Europe

AFP, LONDON

A woman walks among the snow in a park in High Wycombe, England, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

The heaviest snowfall in four years in Britain caused travel mayhem on Sunday, while more than 300 flights were canceled at Germany’s busiest airport and a ferry ran aground at the French port of Calais.

Hundreds of air passengers were stranded in Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital, as well as Britain, and many took to Twitter to complain.

About 330 flights were canceled by 5pm after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt Airport, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told reporters.

The airport — Germany’s largest air hub and the home base for major carrier Lufthansa — had been scheduled to handle a total of 1,260 flights over the day.

Duesseldorf Airport was also forced to close for four hours during the afternoon, news agency DPA reported.

Meanwhile, trains were delayed, redirected or canceled across western North Rhine-Westphalia state.

In Britain, Birmingham Airport, which serves the country’s second-biggest city, suspended flights for all of Sunday morning, as staff worked to clear the runway of heavy snow.

The airport typically handles about 30,000 passengers and 200 flights a day in December.

It diverted 11 flights elsewhere and expected to cancel more than that, a spokeswoman said.

London’s Luton Airport closed its runway for two hours before reopening at about 11:30am to departing aircraft, a spokesman said.

It had opened to incoming flights by early afternoon.

One frustrated traveler described the airport as “like a war zone.”

Police forces in worst-hit Wales and central England urged motorists not to travel unless “absolutely necessary” as they dealt with surging calls.

There had been road incidents “all over the place,” a spokesman for the Highways England agency said.

The flurries continued to fall into the afternoon, threatening to block roads.

Swathes of Britain were hit by the snowfall, particularly in central and western regions, according to the official weather service.

Sennybridge, in Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, topped the records with 30cm, while Coleshill, close to Birmingham, received 10cm, it reported.

Light snow and sleet fell through the morning in London, leaving Northolt, on the outskirts of the capital, with a covering of 2cm, the Met Office said.

“We’ve gone through the worst of it,” office spokesman Oli Claydon said in the early afternoon.

Most areas affected would have a “bright, sunny start to Monday,” he added.

The last time Britain saw this much heavy snow nationwide was March 2013, and during the winter of 2010, Claydon said.

In France, a ferry with more than 300 people on board ran aground in high winds in Calais, interrupting traffic in one of Europe’s busiest passenger ports, but causing no injuries.

Having been stranded for several hours, the P&O vessel was secured and passengers were able to disembark after they were given food and drinks.

The ferry, The Pride of Kent, ran aground at about noon after it hit a gangway while making to leave for Dover in southeast England.

Five tug boats were used in the operation to free the vessel, as winds gusting at up to 110kph made the task difficult.

Elsewhere in France, 32 departments were placed on orange alert with winds of more than 100kph forecast in some areas.

In the northern Pas-de-Calais and Nord regions, about 20,000 homes were without electricity due to gale-force winds, power provider Enedis said.

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