Natural disasters

Heavy snowstorm snarls travel in northern Europe

Heaviest snowfall in four years cancels hundreds of flights in Europe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 3:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 3:10am

The heaviest snowfall in four years in Britain caused travel mayhem on Sunday, while more than 300 flights were cancelled in Germany’s busiest airport.

Hundreds of air passengers were stranded in Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital, as well as Britain, and many took to Twitter to complain.

Some 330 flights were cancelled after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport said.

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The airport – Germany’s largest air hub and the home base for major carrier Lufthansa – had been expected to handle a total of 1,260 flights over the day.

Elsewhere in the country, Düsseldorf airport was forced to close for four hours during the afternoon, news agency DPA reported.

Meanwhile, trains were delayed, redirected or cancelled across western North Rhine-Westphalia state.

In Britain, Birmingham airport, serving the country’s second biggest city, suspended flights for all of Sunday morning, as staff worked to clear the runway in heavy snow.

The airport typically handles around 30,000 passengers and 200 flights a day in December. It diverted 11 flights elsewhere and expected to cancel more than that, a spokeswoman said.

London’s Luton Airport closed its runway for two hours before reopening to departing aircraft, according to a spokesman.

It had opened to incoming flights by early afternoon.

One frustrated traveller described the airport as “like a war zone”.

Police forces in worst-hit Wales and central England urged motorists not to travel unless “absolutely necessary” as they dealt with surging calls.

A spokesman for the Highways England agency said there had been road incidents “all over the place”.

The flurries continued to fall into the afternoon, threatening to block roads.

Swathes of Britain were hit by the snowfall, particularly in central and western regions, according to the country’s official weather service.

Sennybridge, in Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, topped the records with 30cm, while Coleshill, close to Birmingham, received 10cm, it reported.

Meanwhile, light snow and sleet fell through the morning in London, leaving Northolt, on the outskirts of the capital, with a covering of 2cm, the Met Office said.

“We’ve gone through the worst of it,” said spokesman Oli Claydon. Most areas impacted would have a “bright, sunny start to Monday,” he added.

Claydon said the last time Britain saw this much heavy snow nationwide was March, 2013, and during the winter of 2010.

In France, 32 departments were placed on orange alert with winds of more than 100 kilometres forecast in some areas.

In the northern Pas-de-Calais and Nord regions, some 20,000 homes were without electricity due to gale-force winds which affected supply, power provider Enedis said.

Heavy rain also led to the closure of two airports in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, including the one serving the capital Ajaccio.