Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have swept across Europe killing at least eight homeless people, closing major airports and causing hundreds of road accidents.
Geneva, a major hub for low-cost carrier Easyjet, was forced to shut as staff struggled to clear runways of snow. Chambery and Grenoble airports in south-eastern France were also closed.
Eurocontrol, the central air control agency, reported severe flight delays in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Prague.
In Poland, police said eight homeless men died last night after a bitter cold front roared in, with temperatures falling to around -20C. Police said the men, from different parts of the country, had been drinking. The eastern Polish city of Bialystok hit -26C.
Winter weather caused some 2,000 accidents on German roads yesterday, officials said.
Police in northern Austria said a 69-year-old man froze to death overnight when he slipped on a snow-covered bridge on his way home from a funeral and lost consciousness.
Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest airport, reported delays and cancellations on the day many VIPs, including former President Bill Clinton and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, were travelling to FIFA’s headquarters to push their countries’ bids to host the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.
An airport spokeswoman said officials anticipated heavy snowfall but expected to keep flights going. However the presence of so many private jets in Zurich meant the airport had to turn down requests for diverted landings.
Around 60 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport, Germany’s largest, since planes were not able to fly in Tuesday, but there were no weather delays on Wednesday.
Swiss weather agency Meteosuisse forecast more snow throughout the day as a low-pressure front centred over western Europe moved slowly eastward.
“We’ve got unusually cold air over large parts of the eastern Atlantic, and where that meets warm air coming for example from the Mediterranean you have a lot of snow,” it said.
It predicted that snowfall would ease in central Europe tomorrow, but nights will remain extremely cold.
La Brevine, in north-western Switzerland, recorded temperatures of -31C overnight.
Nine regions in north-west and south-east France were put on a weather alert, warning of snow and ice. SNCF, France’s national railway, said traffic on the main south-east routes had been affected by heavy snow, but 80% of its high-speed trains were still running.
In Poland, police were carrying out patrols to find homeless people and get them into shelters. The bad weather was also blamed for a collision between a tram and a car that killed one person in Szczecin.
Further south in the Balkans, 300 people were evacuated from their homes in the northern part of Montenegro because of heavy rains.
Neighbouring Albania declared a state of emergency due to widespread flooding in Shkodra district, 75 miles from the capital, Tirana.