ICE + FIRE = CHAOS

Travel mayhem across Europe after heavy snowfall

The UK suffers as people struggle to cope with snow continuing to fall across the country.
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow (right) from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday. BRITAIN: A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
BELGIUM: A highway in Kontich, in the Belgian province of Antwerp, yesterday. Heavy snowfall caused vehicles to skid and key road tunnels to close in the country. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, EPA-EFE
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow (right) from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday. BRITAIN: A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
SWITZERLAND: Stranded passengers waiting to fly out of Zurich Airport on Sunday. It was among major airports across Europe that cancelled flights because of the bad weather, affecting thousands of travellers.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, EPA-EFE
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow (right) from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday. BRITAIN: A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
BRITAIN: A sign alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, yesterday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, EPA-EFE
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow (right) from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday. BRITAIN: A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
BRITAIN: A camper van crushed by a fallen tree near Sennybridge, where some 32cm of snow fell on Sunday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, EPA-EFE
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow (right) from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday. BRITAIN: A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
GERMANY: Ground staff removing snow from the pitch prior to the German Bundesliga football match between FC Cologne and SC Freiburg in Cologne on Saturday.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, EPA-EFE

Heavy snow disrupted travel across Europe over the past two days, bringing major airports to a virtual halt as airlines cancelled hundreds of flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. Meanwhile, firefighters worked tirelessly to contain massive wildfires in Southern California, which have forced the evacuation of more than 200,000 people.

LONDON • Britain was recovering yesterday after heavy snow brought freezing temperatures, shutting hundreds of schools and disrupting flights for a second day.

Power was restored to more than 100,000 homes, while airports tried to get back on schedule following the winter's first major snowfall - the biggest in four years. The last time Britain saw this much heavy snow nationwide was in March 2013, and during the winter of 2010.

Newspaper front pages were filled with pictures of people either enjoying the snow or stuck in gridlock on the roads.

Some 32cm of snow fell in Sennybridge in south Wales on Sunday. Temperatures overnight also fell to minus 11.6 deg C in Northumberland, north-east England.

The Western Power Distribution network said it has restored power to more than 99,500 customers, while 7,000 more residents were still without electricity, largely in west central England.

Hundreds of schools were closed in western England and north Wales, while much of Britain was on a yellow weather warning, cautioning people to "be aware" of snow and ice. All local authority-run schools in the central city of Birmingham were shut.

Police forces in worst-hit Wales and central England had earlier urged motorists not to travel unless "absolutely necessary", as they dealt with surging calls. A spokesman for the Highways England agency said there had been road incidents "all over the place".

 A sign (left) alerting drivers to road closures near Wrexham, north Wales, ye
Children in Hertfordshire, southern England, taking advantage of the snowy conditions by going sledging on Sunday.

Meanwhile, disruption continued at major airports across Europe, with hundreds of flights cancelled, stranding thousands of passengers.

London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport by passenger numbers, yesterday said it was still experiencing problems.

"Some flights at Heathrow will be disrupted on Monday due to crew and aircraft being out of position following (Sunday's) weather," it said. "We're working with our airline partners to return aircraft to where they need to be, and full service recovery remains the focus."

Passengers described scenes of confusion and frustration: Some people boarded planes and waited for hours on the tarmac, only to have their flights cancelled, while others waited for hours in lines that wound through the airport to speak with airline representatives.

Birmingham airport, serving the country's second-biggest city, also suspended flights for all of Sunday morning, as staff worked to clear the runway in heavy snow. The airport typically handles around 30,000 passengers and 200 flights a day in December. It diverted 11 flights elsewhere and expected to cancel more, a spokesman said.

A man walking his dog through snow-covered woods near Mold in north Wales yesterday. The heaviest snowfall to hit Britain in four years caused widespread mayhem, with roads becoming hazardous and flights grounded following runway closures. The last t
Snowed out in Britain: A man walking his dog through snow-covered woods near Mold in north Wales yesterday. The heaviest snowfall to hit Britain in four years caused widespread mayhem, with roads becoming hazardous and flights grounded following runway closures. The last time the country saw this much heavy snow nationwide was in March 2013. Hundreds of schools were also closed in western England and north Wales, while much of Britain was on a yellow weather warning for snow and ice. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HOLIDAY PLANS AFFECTED

Should be almost in New York for our honeymoon, but instead we've been sat on the plane for four hours now. Crazy that other countries deal with snow all the time but the UK is at a standstill.

DAVY WRIGHT,‏on Twitter

MESSY SITUATION

Most people here are keeping pretty cool about this, but @British_Airways cancelled most of their flights today and have customers waiting hours in lines to rebook. It's a hot mess.

JEANNINE SCHAFER

UNACCEPTABLE

@HeathrowAirport @British_Airways this is unacceptable, we pay too much for air travel to not have to deal with this. I saw families with children stranded, lots of crying. Not acceptable. #BAFixIt #BABeBetter

TWITTER USER MARCIA ASHONG

In Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital, hundreds of travellers were also stranded. Some 330 flights were cancelled by 5pm local time on Sunday, after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around Frankfurt, said a spokesman for airport operator Fraport.

The airport - Germany's largest air hub and the home base for major carrier Lufthansa - had been scheduled to handle a total of 1,260 flights over the day. Elsewhere in the country, Dusseldorf airport was forced to close for four hours during the afternoon, reported news agency DPA. Meanwhile, trains were also delayed, redirected or cancelled across western North Rhine-Westphalia state.

Brussels airport yesterday advised passengers to stay away after heavy snowfall caused many flights to be cancelled. Fifty flights were cancelled and 90 delayed, Belga news agency quoted a spokesman for the Belgian capital's airport as saying.

"Heavy snowfall: do not come to the airport until further notice," the airport said on Twitter, adding that passengers should check the status of their flights.

The airport added in a statement that passengers should not come in for the rest of yesterday. "Because of the adverse weather, numerous flights had to be cancelled," it said.

Airport staff were trying to de-ice planes and clear snow from the runways, the airport added.

The heavy snow also caused travel difficulties across Brussels, with buses and cars skidding and key road tunnels being shut.

In France, 32 departments were placed on orange alert - the second-highest warning level - with winds of more than 100kmh forecast in some areas. In the northern Pas-de-Calais and Nord regions, some 20,000 homes were without electricity due to gale-force winds which affected supply, power provider Enedis said.

Heavy rain also led to the closure of two airports in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, including the one that serves the capital Ajaccio.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Travel mayhem across Europe after heavy snowfall'. Print Edition | Subscribe