Dec 25, 2010

Snow hits christmas journey, many spend night at airports

Stranded air passengers have spent the night at airports in Paris and Brussels after freezing weather severely disrupted Christmas travel.

Some 200 people slept overnight at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which cancelled 400 flights because of snow and ice.

Flights and trains were also disrupted in Belgium, where significant snow fell overnight, and in Germany.

Conditions were expected to ease throughout Christmas Day.

Airport managers described the extremes of snow and ice at the airport as "exceptional".

Problems were made worse on Friday as a strike by workers at France's main anti-freeze factory disrupted crucial supplies.

Those left at Charles de Gaulle airport overnight were given camp beds and blankets as they saw in Christmas inside the terminal building.

Junior transport minister Thierry Mariani visited exhausted travellers at the airport just before midnight, seeking to explain the situation to would-be passengers.

"Since Roissy [Charles de Gaulle airport] came into being, we've never seen anything like this," Pierre Graff, head of the airport operating group, told France's RTL radio.

However, some passengers had heard enough explanations.

"My flight to Milan has been cancelled twice, the first when there was no snow," Zoe Stephanou, 45, told the AFP news agency.

"I'm so tired that I no longer have the strength to be angry."

Earlier on Friday, airport authorities ordered part of Terminal 2E to be cleared of passengers because of fears that the roof might collapse under the weight of 60cm (2ft) of snow.

In 2004, the same roof collapsed shortly after the terminal opened, killing four people.

The strike by de-icing workers disrupted supplies to Paris' airports, but officials said the situation had eased after a plane brought supplies from the US and a tanker shipped extra anti-freeze from Germany.

Elsewhere, significant snowfalls in Belgium, Germany and Italy continued to cause problems across the transport network.

Between 10cm and 20cm (4in-8in) of snow fell in Belgium overnight, AFP reported, hitting bus travel and keeping one runway closed at the city's airport.

Camp beds were also distributed in an attempt to keep delayed passengers comfortable.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported across Germany, and in northern Italy heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Venice.

Unusually high water levels were reported in the Venice lagoon. In the town of Vicenza, west of Venice, people were moved from their homes because of high river levels

The Danish authorities on the Baltic island of Bornholm say they have given up trying to clear roads blocked by snowdrifts. Three people have been reported missing and police have reiterated pleas to people to stay indoors because of the treacherous conditions.

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