Snow strands thousands in Europe on Christmas eve

Snow-blocked runways forced the shut down of Germany's regional air hub in Duesseldorf for several hours on yesterday, leaving hundreds of holiday travellers stranded.

Even after the airport resumed its operation in the afternoon by opening one of the two runways, several flights were delayed for many hours as the snow-clearing teams struggled to keep the runway and aircraft free of ice.

Around 65 out of 335 flights scheduled for yesterday were cancelled and the remaining flights had long delays, according to an airport spokesman.

Heavy snowfall also forced the closure of another regional airport in Dortmund till late in the evening while the Cologne-Bonn airport reported long delays for its flights.

Germany's largest airport in Frankfurt, which was not affected by the latest arctic spell in Europe, said it had a "normal" operation yesterday and it tried to clear a part of more than 3,500 air travellers stranded there following the severe disruptions in its operations caused by heavy snowfall and freezing conditions earlier this week.

Camping beds provided by the airport authorities are still in demand among the stranded passengers, even though their number dropped  significantly during the last two days.
Germany's second largest airport in Munich had a number of cancellations and long flight delays, mainly because of the knock-on effects of the problems in other European airports.

In Paris, the Charles de Gaulle airport cancelled around 400 flights scheduled for yesterday as it struggled to cope with heavy snowfall and ice-building on aircraft.

More than 2,000 air travellers have been stranded at Europe's third largest airport since the flight disruptions there began some days ago.

Several hundred passengers were evacuated from one of its terminals yesterday following fears that the roof of the terminal may collapse under the weight of the snow.

In May, 2004, a section of the newly-built terminal collapsed shortly after its opening, killing four people.

Hundreds of stranded travellers spent the night at the airport in Brussels, where heavy snowing yesterday led to cancellation of a number of flights.

Fresh snowfall caused massive disruptions to the long-distance and regional train services of the German railways.

The route between Berlin and Hannover was closed on Thursday night after five express trains with around 725 passengers on board were brought to a halt by frozen overhead power lines.

Passengers had to spend several hours on trains before rescue teams arrived there to evacuate them.

Frozen power lines also disrupted a number of train services on some major routes  in northern and eastern Germany.

Fresh snow also aggravated the road traffic chaos in Germany and some neighbouring countries.

In the state of North Rhine Westphalia, where 20 cm of fresh snow was recorded on Christmas-eve, snow chaos resulted in hundreds of road accidents.

The roofs of several buildings and halls collapsed under the weight of snow. A number of snow-related accidents were also reported from other German states.

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