Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Heavy snow brings chaos to Europe

A German cyclist gets to grips with the wintry weather (AP)

Heavy snow has brought chaos across the Channel with airports, trains and roads all struggling to keep moving.

Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest, closed at midday after recording about five inches of snow. More than 355 flights had been cancelled by mid-afternoon. T he airport reopened one of its four runways only for take-offs after a brief respite in the snowfall - but the snow then resumed.

North of Frankfurt, the A45 autobahn was shut after more than 100 cars and trucks crashed in a pileup near Muenzenberg. Police said dozens of people were injured but no-one was killed

At Paris' Orly Airport, a Tunisair jet skidded off the runway on ice. No one was injured but the incident caused even further delays at an airport that suffered cancellations and problems all day.

Airport screens flashed with red warnings after the French civil aviation authority ordered about 300 flights - a quarter of the day's total - cancelled out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport. Other airports around northern France were closed, and Brussels airport was forced to operate on a single runway.

Service on the Eurostar trains was suspended mid-morning because of severe weather in northern France and Belgium. Other high-speed train services around the region were also halted.

The French army was called in to help as civilian authorities struggled to clear roads and rescue people stuck in cars and buses on snowed-in roads, notably in Normandy. With up to 20 inches of snow in some areas of northern France, the government urged people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Office buildings in the French capital - like those in the European Union's capital, Brussels - were only partly full. The French train network SNCF urged commuters in the Paris region to stay home "because of the unfavourable evolution of weather conditions."

Belgium had a record 1,000 miles of traffic jams during morning rush hour as snowdrifts turned roads slippery and reduced vision. A strong wind made conditions even tougher. Thousands of commuters were left stranded on snowed-in platforms after many trains around the region were cancelled.

Snow affected even the workings of government and the royal palace: The start of budgetary negotiations within Belgium's governing coalition was delayed, and Prince Lorenz was unable to travel to Maastricht, the Netherlands, to visit a historical exhibition. Even the U.S. Embassy in Brussels closed for the day "due to the continued weather conditions."

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