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Europe transport freezes up

Scores of flights have been cancelled across Europe as snow covers swathes of the continent, severing key highways and disrupting rail and electricity links.

Germans were urged on Saturday to buy enough food and medicines to last for up to four days in the face of a blizzard. The government said all non-essential travel should be avoided.

More than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt, Europe’s third largest airport, on Saturday, spokesman Juergen Harrer said, adding that many more had been delayed.

Traffic on the A5 highway between Germany and France was paralysed on Saturday after French police blocked off the border road to trucks due to heavy snow, German traffic police said.

With much of Britain already shivering through the worst spell of bad winter weather for more than 30 years, a further blanketing was expected. Forecasters say up to 20cm could settle in the east.

The conditions hit weekend sports games — five English Premier League football matches were called off and five out of the six Premiership rugby union fixures were also cancelled.

In London, the Serpentine outdoor swimming lake in Hyde Park was closed for the first time in about 140 years amid icy conditions.

Air travel was also being disrupted — at London’s Heathrow airport, staff have been working round the clock to keep the runways clear and predicted delays and cancellations.

The Eurostar rail link between Britain and continental Europe said it was operating two-thirds of services.

Twenty-seven major companies in Britain were ordered to stop using gas on Friday in order to maintain overall supplies amid unprecedented levels of demand.

In France, significant snowfalls caused major delays to train services and southern areas experienced electricity cuts, with at least 7,000 households affected, according to officials.

With more snow forecast, authorities asked airlines to cut a quarter of flights on Saturday at Paris’s main Charles de Gaulle airport. Traffic was suspended at Toulouse airport but expected to resume later on Saturday.

Several trains were cancelled and many high-speed trains were running late, the national rail operator SNCF said on Saturday.

Ireland, experiencing its worst weather since 1963, was again hit by fresh snowfall in the east which led Dublin airport to suspend all operations.

Education Minister Batt O’Keefe ordered all state primary and secondary schools to remain closed until January 14. Police and the Automobile Association said temperatures were well below zero on all routes with dense freezing fog causing additional problems.

Freezing temperatures were reported on Saturday in Spain and Portugal, affecting road links. Authorities in Lisbon kept two metro stations open overnight to shelter the homeless.

In the Netherlands, thousands took to the ice on Saturday as skating federation KNSB gave the green light for impromptu skating events on three lakes in the centre and north-east of the country.

Dutch Railways deployed special teams to prevent railway points from freezing at key junctions but nevertheless warned of possible delays.

Scores of flights were cancelled in Brussels as Belgium experienced its first heavy snowfalls. Traffic on highways was affected.

Polish authorities said about 25,000 households were without electricity in the southern region of Kielce and Katowice after power lines were snapped by heavy branches felled in the snow.

In Italy, heavy winds and rain toppled trees in the centre of the country and around Rome, leaving about 65,000 people without electricity, civil protection officials said.
 

– SKY NEWS NZ

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