Snowfall blankets Europe as Britain hits -22C

EUROPE was blasted by more snow yesterday as Britain endured its coldest night of the winter and fears for energy supplies intensified.

Britain, in the grip of its worst winter in decades, saw overnight temperatures plunge to -22C at Altnaharra in the Scottish Highlands.

Manchester in northwest England and the Brecon Beacons mountains in Wales hit -16C, while Glasgow recorded minus eight.

The conditions sparked concern for energy supplies in Britain, as gas was cut off on Thursday to almost 100 major firms in a bid to avert a crisis.

British media reported that at least 22 people have died in accidents related to the weather since before Christmas.

The Met Office weather service has said the latest cold spell is the worst since 1981.

Air travellers in Europe waited anxiously to see if flights would depart.

EasyJet cancelled 32 flights, largely to and from London Gatwick and Liverpool airports.

Flights between Belfast and London Stansted and Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino were also cancelled.

Heathrow said it was open but warned travellers to check with their airline.

“Our airfield team has worked round the clock to keep both runways clear but the threat of further snow and ice remains,” it said.

The Eurostar train service linking Britain with France and Belgium faced further disruption after a train got stuck on Thursday in the Channel Tunnel.

“Because of the current severe weather conditions Eurostar will continue to run a restricted service up to and including Sunday,” the rail operator said.

In Norway, temperatures hit -42C in the central village of Folldal.

The plunging temperatures forced a rise in electricity demand, sending prices up too.

Germany braced for up to 15 inches of fresh snow later yesterday, accompanied by gale force winds.

“What is being forecast for the weekend could lead to chaotic traffic conditions and potentially leave large parts of Germany completely paralysed,” the Autoclub Europa, one of Germany’s top auto clubs warned.

Airports drafted in extra personnel while rail operator Deutsche Bahn warned of delays from snowdrifts and frozen points.

Ten homeless people have so far frozen to death in Germany this winter.

Most of mainland Spain was put on alert for fresh snowfalls, strong winds and low temperatures, while heavy rain caused several floods in the southern Andalusia region.

Snow caused the closure of a section of the main highway linking southwestern France with Barcelona in northeastern Spain.

The route crossing the Pyrenees mountains was reopened early on Friday, but a line of trucks 7km long was waiting in France for weather to improve further, highway authorities said.

In France, 37 departments were put on orange alert with heavy snowfall expected.

“The amount of snow expected is significant, exceptional even,” Meteo France warned.

Several towns in southwestern Provence, notably Orange and Avignon, woke up under up to 8 inches of snow, major train delays and power cuts.

The only winners from the big freeze sweeping northern Europe appeared to be children – hundreds of schools in Britain and in Ireland remained closed, giving the youngsters an extended Christmas holiday in the snow.

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