Artic blast claims several lives and paralyses European transport networks

An extreme cold snap sweeping across Europe has claimed more lives, forced the closure of airports in Switzerland and France and left hundreds of drivers stranded on snow-bound roads.

Artic blast claims several lives and paralyses European transport networks

An extreme cold snap sweeping across Europe has claimed more lives, forced the closure of airports in Switzerland and France and left hundreds of drivers stranded on snow-bound roads.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the cold weather poses particular risks to vulnerable people such as the elderly, children and those with chronic diseases or disabilities.

Swedish media reported that a woman who had left her home at an asylum centre with her daughter and son, aged eight and nine, has been pronounced dead after being found in a forest.

The Aftonbladet daily newspaper reported that the woman's daughter is in intensive care, while the boy was found safe and sound in Savsjo, where temperatures fell to minus 10C.

Danish police said an 84-year-old woman with dementia became the second person to die in the country because of the cold weather. She was found on Thursday in a park in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, after leaving her house on Wednesday night.

Travel was badly affected across the continent. Geneva's airport closed after the Swiss city was hit with about 5in of snow over a three-hour period. It reopened several hours later after extensive de-icing of the runway, planes and facilities.

Airports in the southern French cities of Montpellier and the Atlantic beach resort of Biarritz were also affected.

In southern France, about 2,000 cars were blocked on major roads in the Herault region, where snow - and snowploughs - are extremely rare.

In Sweden, the transport administration said people should think twice before taking their cars out in areas affected by heavy snowfall.

Macedonia's government, meanwhile, urged employers to exempt pregnant women and people over 60 from working for a day and to pay special attention to keeping construction workers warm due to the freezing conditions. The temperature in Macedonia dropped to minus 18C near the border with Bulgaria.

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