Snow causes European travel chaos

December 9, 2010 4:19:40 AM PST
Snowfall, ice and freezing temperatures forced many travelers to camp out overnight at Paris and Frankfurt airports, while Scotland called in the army Thursday to clear snow. While Paris' air traffic was returning to normal, more disruptions were expected at Germany's Frankfurt Airport. Many European commuters suffered through traffic jams on slushy streets.

Paris, a city of frequent rain, is unprepared for snow. After snowfall of 10 centimeters (4 inches), bus service was shut down Wednesday, traffic backed up, trains slowed down and Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport was forced to close for an hour and a half. Some passengers huddled under blankets after a long night sleeping at the airport.

"The airport last night was giving out towels, mattresses to sleep on, water, and they were coming around constantly to see if everything was OK," said Lynne Seavor, whose flight home to Britain's East Midlands Airport was delayed by 24 hours.

There were so many people asleep that "it was quite a scene," she said.

The sun was out Thursday in Paris, melting snow off roofs. Sidewalks were slick, and traffic was still badly disrupted.

The Eiffel Tower's first floor reopened to tourists, a day after it was entirely shut down. Officials say they can't use salt there because it could cause damage to the monument.

A combination of snow, rain and temperatures hovering right around the freezing point caused traffic chaos in Germany, with hundreds of accidents reported across the country and scores of miles-long (kilometers-long) traffic jams, not to mention delayed trains and flights.

Dozens of injuries were reported, including nearly 50 in more than 600 accidents in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. One person died in a crash in Rhineland-Palatinate. Both states border France.

Frankfurt Airport was shut down for more than four hours through the night after its runways were deemed too slick to allow for safe takeoffs and landings, spokesman Robert Payne said.

Extra cots and chairs were brought in to accommodate the 2,000 to 3,000 people who spent the night in the terminal due to canceled flights, while others were put up in local hotels, Payne said.

The runways were fully operational Thursday, but Payne said because of the backlog effect passengers were being asked to contact their airlines about the status of their flights, and widespread delays and some cancellations were expected.

Meanwhile, Scotland called in the army to help clear snow and ice after the heaviest snowfall since 1963 paralyzed the country's capital.

Edinburgh City Council held talks with the Ministry of Defense and the Scottish government to secure help digging out the capital after up to 30 inches (75 centimeters) of snow in parts of the city left some of its most vulnerable residents unable to leave their homes.

Soldiers are to aid residents in the hardest hit parts of Edinburgh and clear sensitive locations, such as hospitals and doctors' offices.

The army will also work to remove snow and ice from roads. Subzero temperatures have turned the recent snowfall into thick ice, making travel treacherous and disrupting train services. Parts of the country have not seen a positive temperature reading for nearly two weeks.


Load Comments