UK & World News

  • 12 March 2013, 19:26

Snowfall In Western Europe Sparks Travel Chaos

Snow has been causing travel mayhem in parts of Europe, leaving passengers stranded at airports, railway stations, on the roads and at sea.

Frankfurt Airport - Europe's third busiest - was shut down by heavy snowfall until further notice.

The airport had already cancelled more than 100 flights and reported many delays after the German city saw about 12cm (5ins) of snow.

It was not immediately clear how many more of the scheduled 1,200 flights would be cancelled due to the closure.

Travel in France was also affected, with a quarter of flights out of Paris cancelled by the city's two main airports - Charles de Gaulle and Orly.

The nearby Beauvais airport, serving mainly low-cost airlines, cancelled all flights.

At Orly, a Tunisair flight carrying 140 people from Djerba skidded off the runway on landing but no one was injured, an airport source said.

Several roads in the capital were closed too, while the French rail network SNCF advised rail users to stay at home because of "unfavourable weather conditions".

The unseasonable snowfall - coming only eight days before the official start of spring - also knocked out power to thousands of people in France and left hundreds of motorists stranded in their cars.

About 80,000 homes in the north and northwest of France were without power, following snowfalls of up to 60cm (24ins).

More than 2,000 people were stranded in their cars overnight as heavy snow paralysed roads in Normandy and Brittany, with many spending the night in emergency shelters.

"There are cars in front, there are cars behind. We're in a film, it's like the end of the world," said one trapped driver.

A traffic accident near Lille injured 14 people and a 58-year-old homeless man was found dead, presumably from the cold, outside a building in the town of Saint-Brieuc in Brittany.

Across the border in Belgium, motorists were hit by record traffic jams with many caught in treacherous conditions and battling icy roads, strong winds and reduced visibility due to snowdrifts.

Rail services were also affected - many cancelled - including some of the Thalys high-speed trains to Paris, Germany and the Netherlands, leaving thousands of commuters stranded on snowed-in platforms.

Long traffic jams because of snow and ice also snaked along motorways in the southern Netherlands, hampering travel to and from Belgium after more than 10cm (4ins) of snow overnight.

Eurostar suspended cross-Channel train services between London and Paris following heavy snow.

"Due to extremely difficult weather conditions in northern France and Belgium, with a major part of the high-speed train tracks closed, Eurostar trains have been suspended until further notice," it said.

"Our advice to passengers is not to travel today and not to come to our stations. Exchanges and refunds will be available to affected passengers."

About 500 passengers on a ferry from Ireland to France were forced to spend the night anchored off shore after the vessel failed to dock due to high seas.

A number of French children on a school trip to Ireland were among those on board Irish Ferries vessel Oscar Wilde, which made numerous attempts to dock in Cherbourg in the north west of France

Passenger Caroline Mulreany told Sky News: "This boat, I feel, is in danger of a serious accident.

"Maybe more help is needed and they are not asking for it. The boat right now is swaying really, really bad and crashing in and out of the water.

"Everyone on board is violently sick and they don't have a doctor or anti-sick tablets."

The company said the vessel had attempted to dock four times without success.

"The vessel remains off the port and it is expected that a further attempt will not be made until circa lunchtime today when some weather improvement is expected (or earlier, if possible)," it said.

"To complicate matters further, it is understood that the port area and roads around Cherbourg are gripped by snow and icy conditions.

"Save for the obvious discomfort of being delayed from going ashore, everyone on board is safe and reported to be in good spirits, are comfortable and are being well catered for on board.

In the docking attempt yesterday, one crew member suffered what is understood to be a fractured leg. It was not possible to evacuate him to hospital. He is being attended to by two doctors who were travelling as passengers.

The vessel is not due to make its scheduled return sailing to Rosslare until later today and no Ireland-bound passengers have yet been affected by the delay," it added.