Christmas eve chaos as snow strands European travellers

Thousands of travellers were stranded at Paris' main airport Friday as freezing conditions forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights, with many passengers facing delays into Christmas Day.

At least 400 flights in and out of Paris' main hub Roissy-Charles de Gaulle were cancelled, with flights in Belgium and Germany also affected and motorists staying off the roads as western Europe battled the latest cold snap.

"Of the 1,160 flights initially planned for during the day today, 200 departures and 200 arrivals have been cancelled," a spokesman for France's civil aviation authority DGAC told AFP.

One flight represents an average of 150 passengers, so the cancellations, largely due to problems de-icing aircraft, will affect around 60,000 people.

Junior transport minister Thierry Mariani said that airports were struggling to deal with the third bout of ice this month, with problems compounded by workers at France's main anti-freeze factory at Fos-sur-Mer being on strike.

A cargo plane carrying glycol from the United States arrived at Charles de Gaulle early Friday, an airport source said, with trucks bringing more anti-freeze from Germany due to arrive later in the day.

While rail operator SNCF said all Christmas trains would be running, around 40 passengers spent the night on a train stuck in the snow in the northern Somme region, with the Red Cross supplying them with blankets and hot drinks.

Many northern provincial roads were impassable by car, authorities said, and people were advised to stay at home.

Transport Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet warned that the flight delays could extend into Christmas Day for up to half of passengers at Charles de Gaulle.

Of those unable to travel, some local people returned home, others were put up on nearby hotels and two gym halls were opened by local authorities.

At the airport, officials set up hundreds of camp beds for passengers with nowhere else to go.

"It's unacceptable!" protested Zakaria Talhaoui, 29, who had been due to fly to Casablanca, Morocco, for his brother's wedding.

"Everyone's blaming each other, the company, the airport management," said his tearful wife, Malika.

"They've been giving us the runaround all day in the airport without taking into account the fact that I'm pregnant," she added.

Between 10 and 20 centimetres (four and eight inches) of snow fell overnight in Belgium, sowing chaos on the roads, with many buses and taxis in the capital Brussels unable to drive on snow-blocked streets.

Belgian trains were hit with severe delays as many railway employees were unable to make it to work, operator Infrabel said.

The motorway from Belgium to Luxembourg was cut by snow, and bus services in most cities in the hilly south of the country were not running.

Hundreds of plane passengers at Charleroi spent the night at the airport or in the hotel after their flights were cancelled.

In Germany, the country's third largest airport in Duesseldorf was shut down early Friday, a spokeswoman for the flag carrier Lufthansa told AFP.

"Duesseldorf is closed this morning, but it should reopen this afternoon," Bettina Rittberger said.

On the roads, one person was killed and 10 injured in a massive pile-up involving 51 cars on the A9 motorway between Berlin and Munich, media reports said.

More snow was expected across Germany during the day, and several trains ground to a halt overnight as service was cut between Hannover and Berlin, the national railway Deutsche Bahn said.

Hundreds of tourists on the Danish island of Bornholm were forced to spend the night in an army barracks or on the ferry after heavy snow overnight.

"Bornholm police ask people not to move around. Heading off on foot outside built-up areas is deadly dangerous and we ask people to stay at home," they said in a statement.

In Finland, temperatures plummeted to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) in much of the country overnight, including the capital Helsinki.

In Britain, where heavy snow last week caused widespread transport chaos, meteorologists warned of further snow and widespread icy roads in northeast England and eastern Scotland.

The Met Office forecast that temperatures would plunge to as low as minus 14 Celsius overnight Friday in central Scotland.

Train services were disrupted across large parts of the country, hitting travellers heading home for Christmas, although Heathrow airport was largely back to normal after the chaos of recent days.

In Ireland, Dublin airport reopened Friday after being closed for much of Thursday, stranding about 40,000 passengers.

Snow and ice crews worked overnight to clear about 120,000 tonnes of snow from the runway, a statement from the airport said.

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there