LONDON — Snow and frigid temperatures caused disruption across northern Europe for a third day Monday, stranding travelers, snarling traffic and shutting schools. Authorities stated the bad weather is likely to run through Christmas.
London’s Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, stated at most only one-third of its scheduled flights were likely to operate until Wednesday morning, with further disruption expected for at least several days afterward.
Elsewhere, snow and ice storms lashed Tuscany, Italy, and temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit were reported in parts of Scandinavia.
In Germany, more than 1,000 flights at airports in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin were cancelled after up to 16 inches of fresh snow blanketed the country. Some 500 stranded passengers slept on cots at Frankfurt airport.
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“The domino effect of disruption to services could continue for some days to come,” Heathrow spokesman Andrew Teacher said.
Hundreds of passengers at Heathrow camped overnight in terminal buildings after services were cancelled or delayed.
A statement from Heathrow stated that passengers “should expect further delays and cancelations in the following days and potentially beyond Christmas Day.”
It also confirmed that Heathrow’s closure over the weekend was due to 5 inches of snowfall within around one hour on Saturday.
Britain stated it was relaxing night flying restrictions at the airport for the next four days to help it clear a backlog of flights. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond stated operating hours at the airport would be extended until 1 a.m. GMT and arrivals for repatriation flights would be granted throughout the night.
According to news service Bloomberg, the U.K. Met Office stated up to 8 inches of snow could fall in the south and west of the country Monday, following some 6 inches Sunday.
The Met Office stated the nation had experienced the heaviest snow falls in December in decades and was on course for record low temperatures.
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“You have to look back to December 1981 to find similar snow depths,” forecaster Helen Chivers said. “If the second half of the month is as cold as the first, this will be the coldest December on record since 1910.”
Simon Rushton, a spokesman for Qantas Airways, stated 3,000 of its passengers were affected by the shutdown, as it had been forced to cancel flights from London and turned back other flights headed to the U.K., Bloomberg reported. Rushton stated about 1,000 people were stranded in European and Asian airports.
NBC News’ Peter Alexander, who has been working in London, found himself stranded after his flight from Heathrow to the U.S. was cancelled for a third day in a row.
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“This is one of those rare events I’m used to covering and it’s a lot less pleasant when you are the one stranded,” he told msnbc.com by phone.
However Alexander stated he imagined Christmas in London would be “a pretty unique experience.”
“This week was supposed to be my holiday; I’m supposed to be working Christmas in New York,” Alexander added. “But there is more time for shopping — I heard about a couple of places in the West End — and there is enough fish and chips through to the New Year.”
‘Are we in Argentina yet?’ Staff at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London handed out foam mats and foil blankets to those stranded and without anywhere else to stay. Some fashioned improvised beds from clothes, chairs and stacked suitcases.
“Dad, are we in Argentina yet?” one elementary school child sobbed, as his dad purchased sandwiches, playing cards and comic books from a store inside a Heathrow terminal building.
Janos Kalman, a 50-year-old psychiatrist from Szeged in Hungary, stated he had braved a night on a terminal floor at Heathrow after his flight to Budapest was canceled. “I’ve seen people crying and panicking, and the staff trying to cope with it all,” he said.
London subway trains were packed with dejected holiday travelers in search of hotel rooms, while many tourists complained there was tiny clear information amid the chaotic scenes at the city’s airports.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion and I have only seen one Heathrow worker. All the airline desks are shut because it is a Sunday — it’s absolutely ridiculous,” stated Elizabeth Herridge, who arrived at the airport to learn her flight to Amsterdam had been canceled.
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Air travel was reduced at Paris’s two main airports, with Orly airport shutting down briefly and stranded travelers still camping out in the waiting areas at Charles de Gaulle.
A Lady Gaga concert in Paris was cancelled because trucks delivering sets for the pop diva’s extravagant event could not get to the city’s Bercy stadium. The show was expected to be rescheduled for Tuesday.
The concert had already been rescheduled — it was originally postponed in October during big strikes in France.
The pop star stated staging and sound equipment was stuck aboard heavy trucks ordered off the city’s icy roads. “I am furious and devastated, it’s unfair to my fans and to me,” she wrote on her Twitter site.
France is having one of its snowiest winters in years. Many TGV fast trains were running slower than usual, tacking about 20 minutes on to each journey.
French weather service Meteo France stated it forecasts more snow for the Paris region for Monday and a risk of snow and ice in Paris on Dec. 26 — another major travel day.
Train travel between Paris, London and Brussels on the Eurostar line was disrupted, partly because of speed restrictions, the company stated on its website.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG was anticipating reduced flights across Europe with “much disruption” expected to affect Frankfurt airport, another major European hub, Bloomberg said.
However, Amsterdam’s Schiphol stated Monday on its website that while some flights had been canceled, it was open, Bloomberg reported.
Dutch motorists were coping with icy and slippery roads, prompting government authorities to impose speed limits of 30 mph on various highways as a massive number of accidents contributed to lengthy traffic jams.
In Poland, hard hit by the cold snap, six people froze to death on Sunday night, raising the death toll to 114 in the last month.
Heavy snow also snarled Warsaw traffic again on Monday. Warsaw airport was open but was receiving far fewer passengers than usual because of flight cancelations in western Europe.
The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.
source : www.msnbc.msn.com
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Submited at Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 at 5:00 am on World News by ethan
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