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23 July 2024

Snow traps Scottish drivers in their cars


Hundreds of motorists in Scotland were stranded on Tuesday following a freezing night spent in their cars on the country's snowbound roads.

The country's busiest routes became impassable late Monday in bitterly cold conditions, forcing drivers and passengers in more than 500 vehicles to sleep in their cars.  

Scotland's government - which has many powers devolved from the British government in London - held a crisis meeting as police battled to reach trapped motorists.

Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish transport minister, said the country was in the grip of the "worst snow and ice conditions since the 1960s."

Many parts of Britain have been hit by the country's earliest widespread snowfalls for 17 years.

Around 150 pupils, teachers and parents spent the night in a school in Hamilton, central Scotland, after the heavy snow made it too dangerous for them to make their way home.

Glasgow and Edinburgh airports reopened after a short shutdown because of the weather.


Scottish airports hit as fresh snow falls in Britain

Scotland's busiest airport was closed again on Monday as fresh snow covered parts of Britain and freezing fog ushered in another bitterly cold week.

Edinburgh Airport, closed for several days last week, was shut until at least 1800 GMT, while Scotland's second-largest air hub, Glasgow, halted flights while snow was cleared from the runway but was hoping to reopen later Monday.

Britain's two main airports, Heathrow and Gatwick near London, were operating most flights, following a slight rise in temperatures across Britain over the weekend.

All airports advised travellers to check with their airlines before travelling.

It was back to lessons for the majority of Scottish children after an impromptu week off when their schools were shut for safety reasons because of the snowy and icy conditions.

Floods force evacuations in Bosnia, Albania

European countries rushed aid to flood-stricken Albania Monday, as winter weather caused havoc across the continent with floods forcing thousands to flee their homes in Bosnia and snow causing part of the roof at a nuclear power plant to collapse in France.

NATO sent five military transport helicopters to northwestern Albania, to help thousands of local personnel from the army, police and local government help in help evacuation effort and maintain food supplies.

Five tonnes of food and clothing also arrived from Italy on Monday.

More than 12,000 people have been evacuated from the flooded area.


December 6: Thousands evacuated, more deaths in Europe

An early cold snap slowly released Europe from its icy grip Sunday after days of mayhem and dozens of deaths, but floods displaced thousands in the Balkans and chaos still hit Spanish airports.

In northern Albania, more than 11,000 people were evacuated after a week of torrential rains in the region turned roads into raging torrents of water and left some 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of farmland under water.

More photos: Europe shivers as heavy snow disrupts life

The only way in and out of the town of Shkodra was by boat or helicopter, with streets under two metres (6.5 feet) of water and Albania calling for outside help for the 1,500 police and army working around the clock.

Turkey sent three helicopters and Greece two.

"The situation is very difficult," Albanian President Bamir Topi said.

Authorities fear that more heavy rain could raise water levels further and overwhelm water-gates at hydro-electric power plants.

In neighbouring Montenegro, the situation was still serious on Sunday in the region of Lake Skadar, on the border with Albania and around the capital Podgorica. More than 1,000 soldiers were called to help the population.

In Bosnia meanwhile, three people were killed in northern Bosnia when their home collapsed due to a landslide triggered by heavy rains, national radio reported.

Elsewhere temperatures inched higher after a week of bitterly cold weather killed more than 60 people, most of them in Central Europe.

But temperatures remained below freezing point in many areas, and the deaths overnight of a man and a woman in Prague brought the number killed in the cold snap to six in the Czech capital.

In Poland, five more people died, bringing the death toll there to 36 since the beginning of the month and to 51 since the start of November.

Temperatures early Sunday fell to minus 24 Celsius (minus 11 Fahrenheit) in the south of the country.

Britain, shivering in the earliest widespread snowfalls of winter since 1993, was one of the countries worst affected with two of its major transport hubs scrapping all flights last week.

By Sunday milder weather had caused the snow to disappear completely in some areas, and the situation on the roads, railways and at airports was much improved. But forecasters warned that temperatures would fall again this week.

In one pub in Blakey Ridge, northern England, five employees snowed in for the past eight days were hoping to be liberated later on Sunday, with the novelty of the situation having long worn off.

"We have had people phoning up asking to get trapped in, but it's kind of boring now and I would like to go home," said Daniel Butterworth, one of those in the enforced lock-in.

There have also been several days of chaos at Spanish airports, although this time the weather was not to blame but a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers that closed national airspace for a time.

On Sunday hundreds of thousands of passengers still packed the airports as flights resumed after the first national state of alert since 1975 saw the army put the controllers back to work.

The strike hit an estimated 300,000 passengers on a long holiday weekend, whipping up the most chaotic scenes since an Icelandic volcano erupted in April and halted 100,000 flights worldwide.

In Germany, temperatures rose to just above freezing in many areas, particularly in low-lying areas in the north, but authorities warned motorists of black ice as temperatures plummet again overnight.

A recently introduced law obliges motorists to drive using winter, or all-weather tyres.
In Austria, temperatures of minus 10 Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) were recorded in the east of the country, but milder weather and rain were forecast. Authorities in the state of Tyrol issued avalanche warnings.

In Belgium, the transport was slowy returning to normal, but fresh snowfall contributed to the death of a motorist whose car slid off the road and into the side of a house in the eastern Liege region.

In the Netherlands up to 1,000 transit passengers spent the night at Amsterdam-Schiphol airport.

In Portugal, around 20 secondary roads remained unpassable in the northern mountainous regions.


Poland cold weather death toll climbs to 52

Five Poles died from exposure to cold overnight, bringing the death toll to 52 since the start of the cold weather season last month, the Government Security Centre said on Sunday.

A spokesman for the centre said 37 people had died of exposure to cold so far in the first five days of December. Fifteen died in November.

Most of the victims were homeless seeking shelter in unheated abandoned buildings or garden sheds, and many were under the influence of alcohol.

So far this season the coldest weather was recorded in north-eastern Poland's Bialystok area bordering Lithuania and Belarus, where air temperatures reached minus 27 degrees Celsius and ground temperatures were as low as minus 32.

Heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures have disrupted road and rail traffic across the country and caused the closure of some schools and government institutions.


December 5: Death toll rises in Europe's deep freeze

An early cold snap in Europe claimed more lives Saturday, while a wildcat strike by Spanish air traffic controllers added to the travel chaos caused by snow, ice, and in some countries flooding.

Freezing weather killed another nine people in Poland over a 24-hour period, bringing the death toll there to 46 since the beginning of November, police said.

More photos: Europe shivers as heavy snow disrupts life

Temperatures there dropped as low as minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus 2 Fahrenheit) overnight Friday.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, it was minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) overnight, disrupting rail traffic as the ice seized up signals at several junctions.

French police blamed icy driving conditions for three deaths in the east of the country after a car slid off the road and into a canal near Plobsheim late Friday. Neither the driver nor the passengers had been drinking, police added.


In a statement to Emirates 24|7, a spokesperson from the UK-based British Airways said: “The effects of the snow and adverse weather conditions in the UK continue to disrupt flights. British Airways staff is working tirelessly to help customers get to their chosen destination.
“We are extremely sorry that customers may be inconvenienced. Our staff will do everything they can to help. Customers should check on ba.com for the very latest information about their specific flight before leaving for the airport.

“If their flight has been cancelled customers can either chose to rebook on an alternative flight or they can claim a full refund.”
UAE-based carriers have also been affected, with the closure of London Gatwick airport on Thursday and Friday resulting in delays and diversions of several Emirates flights.

Similarly, with the closure of Dublin airport caused Etihad to delay its flight by 1.5 hours.

In an earlier statement, an Emirates spokesperson said: “The UK and parts of Europe continue to be affected by snow and adverse weather conditions. We are continuously monitoring the situation and are ready to respond should the situation change.”

A peek at the airline’s website for the day has, however, indicated good news with both EK007 to London Heathrow airport EK001 scheduled to arrive at their respective times of approximately 7am and 11.45am.

Passengers are already fearing a shutdown during the peak holiday period, worried that a possible Ash cloud scenario might disrupt their travel plans much like earlier this year when an Icelandic volcanic eruption had most of Europe being declared a no-fly zone for a week.

Etihad’s spokesperson, however, dismissed such a scenario, saying: “Adverse weather conditions are a regular part of operating a global airline. Weather conditions such as this do not pose the same level of risk to aircraft or services as the Volcanic Ash Cloud that took place in April – in which European air traffic controllers closed all airspace for a week.”


Weather forecasters warned of black ice in northern France that would make driving particularly dangerous.

Officials in the French Alps meanwhile warned of the risk of avalanches on Sunday in ski stations already open because of the early snow. The danger would increase Monday with fresh snowfalls and a subsequent thaw, they added.

The roof of a building at the Flamanville nuclear power station in northern France partially collapsed under the weight of snow overnight Friday, power company EDF said.

The building contained about 10 barrels of low-level radioactive waste, but France's nuclear safety agency, the ASN, classed the incident one on a scale of seven, at the bottom of the scale of seriousness.


Civil aviation officials asked airlines flying out of Charles de Gaulle, Paris' main airport, to cut back their flights by 20 pe rcent during daylight to ease the pressure caused by the snow and ice there.

In Spain, the disruption to air traffic came mainly from a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers, which ran from Friday to Saturday evening, hitting an estimated 300,000 passengers over a long holiday weekend.

The government there put the military in command of the skies and threatened to prosecute the strikers, who had called in sick en masse rather than staging a formal strike. By Saturday afternoon, they were returning to work.

Britain's Transport Secretary Phil Hammond relaxed the maximum-hours restrictions for lorry drivers to keep the country's vital supplies moving.

"This will help us with deliveries of fuel, it will help supermarket chains with their deliveries to their stores and it will help with deliveries of salt around the country," he said.

The wintry weather has disrupted road, rail and air travel in Britain over the past few days. In many parts of England and Wales however, the snows were melting away.

Ski resorts in Scotland warned of the risk of avalanches, but the thaw there was also helping rail traffic, badly disrupted by the recent snow, to slowly get back on track.

In Switzerland, Geneva's University Hospital cancelled non-urgent operations scheduled for Monday and Tuesday to cope with a massive flow of broken bones caused by people slipping and falling in icy conditions.

Operating theatres were working overtime through the weekend.

In Carinthia, southern Austria, some 800 homes were still without electricity Saturday and traffic was hit badly as trees were sent crashing on to roads by the weight of heavy snowfalls.

Germany was enduring sub-zero temperatures with more snow forecast Sunday.

Further east, officials evacuated thousand of people in Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia from their homes as days of heavy rain caused flooding.

The situation was particularly serious along the river Drina, part of which runs along the border between Bosnia and Serbia. Bosnia declared a state of emergency in the eastern cities of Bijeljina, Visegrad and Zvornik.

Albanian soldiers have since Wednesday been working to rescue people in the northern regions of Lezha and Shkodra cut off by the flooding, in what the authorities there have declared a natural catastrophe.

In Albania alone, 9,000 have had to be evacuated over the past week and thousands of hectares of farmland have been flooded.

More photos: Europe shivers as heavy snow disrupts life


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