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Snowstorm wreaking havoc in NW Europe

Agencies/China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-14 10:17

Snowstorm wreaking havoc in NW Europe

A snowplow removes snow on the A25 highway, on Wednesday, in Godewaersvelde, northern France, during a heavy snowstorm that swept across northwestern Europe. [Photo/Agencies]

Flights canceled, drivers stranded as traffic jams block highways

An overnight snowstorm in northwestern Europe forced the closure of southwest Germany's Frankfurt Airport, caused record traffic jams in Belgium, and left British drivers sleeping in their cars.

Take-offs and landings at Europe's third-busiest airport were halted at noon on Tuesday as it took two hours to clear snow from the runways. Airlines, including Deutsche Lufthansa, canceled about 700 flights of a daily total of 1,200 as the airport was only partially reopened in the afternoon.

Snow and ice contributed to several accidents about 50 km from Frankfurt on the A45 motorway, including a massive pile-up involving as many as 100 cars and trucks.

In Belgium, the breakdown-assistance association Touring said the total length of jammed cars on highways and major roads at their rush-hour peak hit 1,670 km, beating by far the previous record of 1,285 km set on Feb 3, 2012.

"There was too much snow at the wrong moment. If it snows a lot at night, the salt doesn't work, as there aren't enough cars to spread it around," Touring spokesman Danny Smagghe said.

The high-speed Eurostar train service connecting London with the French and Belgian capitals and the Thalys line linking Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Cologne in Germany were both suspended. Brussels' two main railway stations were closed.

Social media were full of messages about the unusual mid-March snowfall of up to 20 cm and the cold. It was set to be the first mid-March day since 1925 that the daytime temperature in Belgium had not risen above freezing.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders tweeted that budget talks would be delayed due to the weather.

Pensions Minister Alexander De Croo added: "The budget won't be simple, but just getting into Brussels to get started is a task of a different order altogether."

Temperatures hovered close to freezing in Britain, with snow expected in parts of Scotland and eastern England. Motorways in the south of the country were blocked as trucks were backed up following delays to freight and passenger services through the Channel Tunnel connecting England and France.

In southeastern England and northern France, hundreds of drivers spent the night in their cars. Another 600 people spent the night in public buildings opened up for them by authorities in the French coastal region of Normandy.

High winds and snowdrifts also caused traffic chaos in parts of the southern Netherlands.

Reuters-AFP

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