Transport chaos as cold snap grips Western Europe

A plane slid off an icy runway and powerful winds and heavy snow forced hundreds of flight cancellations across Europe today as blasts of freezing cold buffeted Western Europe.

A plane slid off an icy runway and powerful winds and heavy snow forced hundreds of flight cancellations across Europe today as blasts of freezing cold buffeted Western Europe.

More than 300 car accidents were reported on icy streets in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, with more than 40 people injured. The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia reported 108 accidents.

At the German-French border near Freiburg, hundreds of trucks were stuck for hours when French authorities closed the highway because of heavy snow. The Red Cross handed out blankets and hot soup to the drivers.

By early afternoon, 226 domestic and international flights had been cancelled at Frankfurt Airport as a low pressure system from the Mediterranean brought gusty winds and several inches (centimetres) of snow.

Crews struggled to clear the runways, and the few planes which managed to take off had to be de-iced first, said Frankfurt Airport duty manager Heinz Fass.

Schoenefeld and Tegel, the main airports in Berlin, as well as Munich Airport, also reported cancellations.

An Air Berlin plane slid off the runway in Nuremberg, Germany, and got stuck in the snow late yesterday. Nobody was injured, but the airport was closed for more than two hours.

In France, dozens of flights were cancelled in Toulouse, Lyon and Brest.

Heavy snow snapped power lines in the south-east, near the Mediterranean, leaving at least 7,500 homes without power. And at least 12 French Cup matches had to be rescheduled because of the cold, the French football federation said.

But conditions improved in Paris, and late today France’s civil aviation authority lifted an order requiring the cancellation of one flight in four at Charles de Gaulle Airport, France’s busiest.

Wind whipped the snow into yard-high drifts along the Baltic coast of north-east Germany, making roads impassable. Radio stations reported that several villages on the Baltic island of Ruegen were completely cut off.

On Fehrmarn, another Baltic island, farmers were being asked to use their agricultural machinery to help clear the roads, said island official Volker Kluetmann.

“The snow is so high that even the snow ploughs get stuck,” Mr Kluetmann said.

In Berlin, even the mice were desperate to escape the cold: swarms of them have taken over the Bundestag, the country’s parliament, the daily newspaper Bild reported.

But more than 100 people jumped into a hole in the ice at Oranke Lake as part of an annual Berlin ice-swimming festival.

In Sweden, overnight temperatures dropped as low as minus 35C (minus 31F) inland.

Linkoping, a university town 125 miles (200km) south-west of Stockholm, recorded its lowest temperature since 1979, hitting minus 26.6C (minus 16F), the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said.

Yesterday, the agency reported that the Baltic Sea was covered by ice which was nearly 16in (40cm) thick in places.

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