Snow grounds 450 flights at German airports

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The Independent Online

Heavy overnight snowfall grounded about 450 flights and caused major delays at German airports Friday, forced schools to close and left highways clogged with traffic after scores of accidents that killed at least two people and injured dozens.

Snow also hindered flights in the neighboring Netherlands, where Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport saw 30 cancellations and major delays ahead of the busy Christmas holiday season, spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang said.



The European control agency eurocontrol said passengers at Schiphol, one of continental Europe's busiest airports, had to expect delays of up to 4 1/2 hours.



Snow also closed Geneva airport early Thursday morning, though it was open again by midmorning, and flights were also disrupted in Zurich.



In Frankfurt, 300 flights had been canceled by late morning, and the number is expected to rise throughout the day, airport spokesman Timo Ross said. About 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow blanketed the state overnight, also causing the closure of schools around Frankfurt and elsewhere in Hesse.



The airport, continental Europe's second-biggest hub, had to be closed for about an hour late Thursday, and an estimated 1,000 passengers were stranded overnight, Ross said.



Munich airport, Germany's second-largest, reported 113 cancellations and major delays; Duesseldorf and Stuttgart saw more than 20 cancelations each.



Roads were clogged by snow, and in North-Rhine Westphalia state alone authorities reported traffic jams of more than 185 kilometers (115 miles) on highways, and 251 weather-related accidents that left 19 people injured.



Officials in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said there were 108 weather-related accidents that left 17 people injured.



Two men died in a traffic accident in the southern state of Bavaria, according to authorities. The men, 54 and 44 years old, were trying to help a friend to pull his car out of the snow near Straubing late Thursday when they were struck by an oncoming car, police said in a statement.



A wave of snow and icy weather was also causing travel problems across Britain, with trains canceled, schools shut and cars sliding on icy roads.



One motorist in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, Kirsty McCullogh, told BBC radio it had taken her five hours to drive 4 miles.



"It's absolutely awful, the roads are sheet ice — they've not been gritted at all," she said.



Belfast International Airport was closed Friday morning because of snow, and there were delays and cancellations at other airports including Aberdeen, Birmingham and Luton.



Switzerland's main airport in Zurich also reported delays, and a total of 84 flights were canceled, spokeswoman Sonja Zoechling said. Geneva saw about 20 flight cancellations.



In Denmark, the state postal service reported snow in the past weeks has caused a high number of injuries to the country's 12,000 letter carriers — including broken limbs.



PostDanmark reported 355 carriers have so far been injured since November — compared with a total of 450 during last year's entire winter, the B.T. newspaper reported.



The postal service has acknowledged that the snow may delay Christmas letters — and most importantly — parcels with presents.



Even where snow is desperately needed, too much of it proved to be a curse: The women's World Cup super-G downhill skiing event in Val d'Isere in south-eastern France was called off due to too heavy snowfall overnight and Friday morning.

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