At least 12 dead in winter storms, as avalanches and high winds hammer Europe
- Search for skiers lost in Norway abandoned again due to heavy snow and hazardous conditions, while temperatures plunge to minus 20 in Greece
Hundreds of people were snowed-in in Alpine regions amid avalanche warnings, parts of Scandinavia were left without electricity and high winds caused flight delays and cancellations in the Netherlands as deadly winter weather continued to blast Europe on Tuesday.
At least 12 people have been killed in weather-related accidents in Europe over the last week, most of them from avalanches.
In Norway, attempts to find the bodies of four skiers were again put on hold due to poor visibility and heavy snowfall. A 29-year-old Swedish woman and three Finns, aged 29, 32 and 36, were presumed dead after a 300-metre-wide (990-foot-wide) avalanche hit the Tamok valley, near the northern city of Tromsoe, last week.
In Austria, hundreds of residents were stuck in their homes due to blocked roads, and some regions experienced power outages after snow-laden trees took down power lines.
Schools in some Austrian regions were closed for a second day and homeowners advised to remove snow from their roofs after several buildings collapsed. A 78-year-old man was severely injured when he fell off the roof of his home in Turrach while shovelling snow, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported.
On Monday night, 11 German hikers had to be rescued by mountaineers from a cabin near Salzburg, after having been snowed in without electricity and little food since Friday. Several people were killed by avalanches in recent days and authorities warned continuing snowfall is increasing the already high risk of more avalanches.
In southern and eastern Germany, people were also bracing for more snow, while in the northern coastal city of Hamburg residents were preparing for a storm flood caused by a winter gale, the German news agency dpa reported.
In neighbouring Netherlands, Amsterdam’s busy Schiphol Airport warned of delays and cancellations.
Dutch carrier KLM cancelled 159 flights to and from European destinations.
In northwestern Dutch coastal regions expected to be hardest hit by strong winds and wild seas, local water authorities began checking dykes to make sure they were not damaged.
The Noorderzijlvest water authority said it was monitoring dykes because of debris floating in the sea after nearly 300 containers tumbled off a cargo ship in a storm last week. Many of the containers are still at sea and some have broken open, spilling their contents.
“A fridge or container that is rammed against a dyke can cause damage,” the authority said on its website.
Heavy snowfall and strong winds were reported on Tuesday over central Scandinavia, hampering efforts to restore electricity after a hefty storm swept through northern Europe on January 2.
Swedish media reported several car crashes and stranded vehicles but nothing unusual for the season.
Meanwhile in southeastern Europe, schools in the Greek capital and many surrounding areas remained shut after snow blanketed Athens, with temperatures in some parts of the country plunging well below freezing.
Courts in Athens were also staying shut on Tuesday, with only urgent prosecutions being heard, the Justice Ministry said. Some rural roads, particularly those leading up to the mountains near the capital, were shut overnight and in the early morning.
Greece has been experiencing a cold snap for the past few days, with heavy snowfall, particularly in the north of the country and in mountainous areas. Temperatures have reached minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of northern Greece, while many islands have had snow.