Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite from freeze

Conditions have improved in some regions, but temperatures still remain sub-zero

PARIS • Europe's deep freeze, which has claimed more than 60 lives over the past week, continued to wreak havoc yesterday as the shivering continent awaited a sliver of weekend respite from a brutal Siberian cold front.

After heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe, conditions marginally improved in some regions - although temperatures generally remained sub-zero, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at some airports.

In Britain and Ireland, airports reopened and public transport began to grind back into service yesterday after the worst snowstorms in nearly 30 years.

Flood warnings were issued yesterday due to the melting snow, which in Scotland had led to snow drifts up to 3m deep, according to ScotRail. While Ireland's most severe weather warning was lifted, the government urged caution.

In France, the forecast this weekend was for rain rather than the kind of heavy snowfall that has blanketed vast tracts of Europe.

The deadly chill has been caused by weather blowing in from Siberia. British media have dubbed the front "the Beast from the East", while the Dutch have gone for the "Siberian Bear" and the Swedes plumped for the "Snow Cannon". The freezing Siberian winds combined with another storm called Emma, which swept up from the south to hit Britain, dumping more snow.

Snow falls on a member of The Queen's Life Guard in Whitehall in London last Friday. Airports and public transport in Britain and Ireland slowly began to return to service yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Over the past week, the freezing conditions have claimed more than 60 lives, according to an Agence France-Presse toll, including 23 in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic and five in Lithuania.

Other deaths were recorded in Spain, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.

Four skiers were killed by an avalanche last Friday in the French Alps, which have seen particularly heavy snowfall.

In Austria, five migrants abandoned by smugglers were rescued from a motorway near the city of Graz last Friday, some of them walking barefoot in sub-zero temperatures, according to police.

Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to record lows of up to minus 40 deg C.

The blizzard has even covered usually balmy Mediterranean beaches with a blanket of snow.

In Folldal, a small village in central Norway, the temperature fell even lower, to minus 42 deg C. Even so, residents are used to harsh conditions.

"Life is generally ongoing," mayor Hilde Frankmo Tveren quipped to broadcaster TV2.

Ireland's main airports reopened yesterday, although more than 50 flights in Dublin, mainly operated by Ryanair and Aer Lingus, had already been cancelled before snow and ice teams worked through the night to clear the airfield.

Airport authorities warned, however, of further "delays and cancellations".

Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures, with a number of major roads blocked because of snow and black ice as forecasters warned the country's northern and central regions would see little immediate improvement.

Many Italian schools remained closed and local authorities told people to remain indoors.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite from freeze'. Subscribe