Europe shivers as cold snap hits power, transport

Two people push a car during a heavy snowfall in Gelsenkirchen at the Ruhrarea, Germany. (AP)

Europe faced weekend weather misery with scores of flights cancelled yesterday as snow blanketed swathes of the continent, severing key highways and disrupting rail and electricity links.

Germans were urged to buy enough food and medicines to last for up to four days in the face of a blizzard. The government said all non-essential travel should be avoided. More than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt, Europe's third largest airport, yesterday, spokesman Juergen Harrer said, adding many more had been delayed.

Traffic on the A5 highway between Germany and France was paralysed after French police blocked off the border road to trucks due to heavy snow, German traffic police said.

With much of Britain already shivering through the worst spell of bad winter weather for more than 30 years, a further blanketing was expected.

Forecasters say up to 20cm, or seven inches could settle in the east.

The conditions hit weekend sports games – five English Premier League football matches were called off and five out of the six Premiership rugby union fixures were also cancelled.

In London, the Serpentine outdoor swimming lake in Hyde Park was closed for the first time in about 140 years amid icy conditions.

Air travel was also being disrupted. At London's Heathrow airport, staff have been working round the clock to keep the runways clear and predicted delays and cancellations.

The Eurostar rail link between Britain and continental Europe said it was operating two-thirds of services.

Twenty-seven major companies in Britain were ordered to halt using gas on Friday in order to maintain overall supplies amid unprecedented levels of demand due to harsh weather.

In France, significant snowfalls caused major delays to train services and southern areas experienced electricity cuts with at least 7,000 households affected, according to officials.

 

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