Europe hit by blizzards, air traffic havoc

January 20, 2013 - 2:50:39 am

Snowmen in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris yesterday.

LONDON: Extreme winter weather swept across western Europe yesterday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at London’s main international airport and claiming several lives in Spain, Portugal and France.

The frigid temperatures also caused delays and cancellations on major railway lines including the Eurostar train service, and transport authorities warned of further traffic disruptions with more blizzards forecast today. 

In London, thousands of passengers were forced to camp out on the floors of Heathrow Airport overnight as hundreds of flights to and from the British capital were cancelled. “There are lots of bodies lying around in the airport. If feels like there’s been a natural disaster,” Jerry Meng from Los Angeles, whose flight to New York was cancelled, told British broadcaster BBC. London’s other main airports, Gatwick and Stansted, managed to operate normally yesterday. 

For today, the snow is expected to cause a 20-percent traffic reduction at Heathrow, and French air traffic authorities have ordered a 40 percent cut in take-offs and landings at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports. The snow and ice covering large parts of France led to several fatal car crashes, one of which killed three French soldiers.

In total, six people were killed on French roads yesterday, and the nation’s weather services have forecast more snow across the northern and southeastern parts of the country over the weekend.

In southern Europe, the fierce weather claimed several lives, killing two men in Spain. AFP