A fresh dumping of snow and gale force winds wrought havoc in Germany yesterday as harsh winter conditions made for a weekend of travel misery across Europe.
In Germany, the north was worst hit with motorways, other roads and railways made unpassable in places by blizzards, forcing hundreds of people to either spend the night in their cars or abandon them on the road, police said.
“At least when it comes to the north, the situation is dramatic,” Maxi Hartung from the German Automobile Association said on rolling news channel NTV. “On the A20 motorway, people have been stuck for hours.”
The whole country was under snow, with Leipzig in the east under 29cm, nearby Berlin under 27cm while Hamburg in the north-west had 12cm, forecasters said.
Dozens of villages on the Baltic Sea islands such as Ruegen were cut off.
Rail and air travel were also hit, with 61 flights cancelled since midnight as of 10.20am at Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third busiest, after 255 flights were scrapped on Saturday, a spokesman said.
Workers were battling to keep all three of Frankfurt’s runways operational, with travellers lucky enough to be able to take off still subject to delays of around an hour, spokesman Heinz Fass said. Other airports were also hit.
On Friday, Germans were warned to buy enough food and medicines to last for up to four days in the face of a blizzard, and then hunker down at home, avoiding all non-essential travel.
Britain, meanwhile, was suffering its coldest weather for 30 years, with 50 short-haul flights out of London Heathrow cancelled on Saturday, while heavy snow closed Dublin airport for four hours.
The unusually harsh conditions are being caused by a rare combination of a depression bringing relatively warm humid air from the Mediterranean north where it has met cold air from the north and east, Michel Daloz from Meteo Franc said.
Heavy rain and melting snow have also led to flooding in parts of Croatia and Bosnia.