• Germany's news in English

Blizzard slams Germany

The Local · 17 Dec 2010, 16:52

Published: 17 Dec 2010 08:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Dec 2010 16:52 GMT+01:00

The rail passengers suffered a nightmare scenario on Thursday evening when their trip came to a chilly halt. The regional train between Hamburg and Lübeck stopped cold when it lost power due to snow damage along contact wires.

With no heat, light or explanation from train conductors between 4:30 pm and 8:30 pm, passengers reportedly panicked. Several tried to break open windows and escape, while others used emergency exits to venture into the darkness – a major breach of safety because other trains were still running on nearby tracks.

“Some passengers became panicked, cried, called for help,” one witness told daily Lübecker Nachrichten. “They believed it was an attack.”

Others called the police, who along with local fire fighters drove some 150 passengers to a nearby sports hall from the site near Tremsbüttel. Several passengers were treated for hypothermia.

On Friday afternoon national rail provider Deutsche Bahn said passengers on the train would each be compensated €250 for their trouble.

The German Weather Service (DWD) warned more snow was likely this weekend after a brief respite on Saturday.

But even in regions where the heavy snowfall was expected to ease, the situation for roads, rails and airports was chaotic, authorities said.

In North Rhine-Westphalia police placed a ban on any trucks over 7.5 tonnes overnight after dozens became mired down in snow and ice. In the Bergisches Land region some 50 trucks were reportedly parked in a row on the A4 motorway, while autobahns near Cologne, Dortmund and Münster were closed.

Traffic jams of up to 40 kilometres formed in the state, with rescue workers providing hot drinks and blankets for chilly drivers.

By morning the truck ban had been lifted in most areas, but treacherous ice near Münster would keep the vehicles of the road indefinitely, authorities said.

Traffic jams were also reported in the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin and Brandenburg following countless accidents.

In Dresden police counted more than 100 accidents within just a few hours.

Meanwhile three people were killed in auto accidents caused by ice. Two men were run over near Straubing while trying to help a friend tow his car. And a 60-year-old Passau man died when his car lost control on a patch of ice and hit a tree.

Heavy snow began falling in the morning in the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg , leaving up to 20 centimetres of snow on motorways, but there were few accidents because residents stayed in, police said.

There was so much snow in the state of Hesse that even street cleanup vehicles became stuck, while in Frankfurt so many people slept in their vehicles during traffic jams that police had to wake them once the roads began to clear.

Story continues below…

Air traffic was also hindered by the storm, with Germany’s largest hub, the Frankfurt Airport, reporting more than 200 cancelled flights by 10 am on Friday morning. On Thursday the airport had already had almost 250 cancellations, a spokesperson said.

Many flights at Berlin’s Tegel Airport were also cancelled, as passengers faced long waits.

"There are massive lines just to see if there are any flights available," said one frustrated man on his way to Paris.

But the storm pleased at least some children in parts of northern Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, who got a second day off from school thanks to the snow.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:26 December 17, 2010 by auniquecorn
Petra Hammered?
14:05 December 17, 2010 by Bushdiver
Learn how to speak English properly before commenting. The blizzard ¦quot;Petra¦quot; hammered Germany. Notice that Petra has quotation marks?
14:54 December 17, 2010 by XFYRCHIEF
Cool, you give your blizzards names! Can't wait for Katrina!
17:00 December 17, 2010 by Californian

auniquecorn's comment is what I'd call, "tongue-in-cheek" humour.

I too thought Petra needed a good hammering :P
17:32 December 17, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
¦quot;They believed it was an attack.¦quot; Idiots! That is the result of crying "terror terror terror!"
18:09 December 17, 2010 by yhsanjay
The Deutsche Bahn train coming to a sudden halt with no power and light is a horror story.When there was a blizzard warning why were the authorities sleeping and not taking corrective steps. At the most the trains could have been cancelled.

The traffic accidents and deaths are sad to know about.

The motorists falling asleep in their cars and being woken up when the traffic jams ceased is amusing to read - A Sleep At The Wheel or is it An Unwanted Sleep On The Comfy Seats?
18:54 December 17, 2010 by Biggseye
Pardon the question, but I live in the middle part of the US, Michigan actually, an area that many Germans immigrated to. A large number because the climate conditions were similar, at least that is what my Grandmother said, she was first generation German. Now here in Michigan, especially the northern part where I live, we expect 150 plus inches of snowfall per year. in some places 200 plus is the norm. I wave seen a meter of snow in 36 hours a number of times, It slows us to a crawl, but it is not a killer.

All this being said, why are the Europeans being so over whelmed by this snow. I would think that you would have equipment to move snow. I would think that you would plan for heavy snow. Don't your trains have snow plows? It would seem that the system to supply power to your trains failed due to snow. I would have thought you would have accounted for that.
19:49 December 17, 2010 by auniquecorn
@bushdiver, I take it you did´nt take your medication today?

What does And I quote (Learn how to speak English properly before commenting) un-quote.

I believe I speak perfect english, of course my typing might be a little Féd up but so is your head.
23:18 December 17, 2010 by DepotCat
At one time DB was the envy of Europe. Back in the days of British Rail the British yearned for a system like DB, asking why the government couldn't finance the railways like the German's were doing.

Back in the 90s British Rail was privatised but still they cannot cope in the south..{Because of the way power is picked up from a third rail}...with just a mild covering of snow. Is it since privatisation that all the trouble has started with DB..?? Or was it common years ago too..??
23:55 December 17, 2010 by lordkorner
Yeah lighten up bushdiver.
00:31 December 18, 2010 by DonH
I blame myself for this whole mess. My wife and I are flying to Bremen on Christmas eve. I expected sunny and 70 degrees F. ;-)
10:53 December 18, 2010 by majura

Unlike where you live in the states, we don't get this much snow every year. It comes and goes. 2 years ago we had snow, but nowhere near as much. The year before that it was mostly rain. Last year we had a lot which is similar to this year.

Our trains don't have snow plows on the front because they actually travel at reasonable speeds (in comparison to the antique that is Amtrak)... there are specific slow clearing trains used on the tracks. I also find in unreasonable to prevent snow/ice build up on every single powerline along the rail lines - it only happened once thus far this winter and was repaired in a reasonable amount of time.

Sure DB have cut costs and hence quality of service, but it's still fairly reasonable IMO.
03:20 December 19, 2010 by croaky
Hey Biggseye, I was borderline born on a snowbank... north of Montreal. Michigan? Pffft!

I recall a storm in Montreal when the snowbank was so high that pedestrians could not see the heavy traffic below (in a tunnel-like path).

Or another when Montreal came to a standstill except for snow ploughs that carried patients to the Montreal General Hospital in the hollow of the front ploughs. No kidding. They were the ONLY moving vehicles.
10:48 December 19, 2010 by teech
It's all very easy to give the governments of Europe a hard time over the way they are coping-or not- with the current arctic onslaught, but we must, like them, look at the bigger picture.

In these austere times, what would the public reaction be to multi-million euro investement in snow plough hardware if the winter turned out to be the still usual mild affair?

Imagine the news pictures of serried ranks of expensive snow clearing hardware standing in the pouring rain under headlines of 'What A Waste!'

Fact is, unlike Montreal, Michigan et al where these conditions are reliably bankable, the weather in central Europe is and has always been unreliable. And a government's stance must be that the risk of a couple of weeks upheaval, discomfort and a few otherwise avoidable deaths is preferable to the risk of months of headlines about how our inept leaders have mis-spent our taxes on useless equipment when they could be using it to make our lives easier, more comfortable and safer.
19:21 December 19, 2010 by croaky

You're absolutely right, of course. Some countries' weather aberrations do not warrant the kind of expense that are essential in countries like Canada and the northern U.S.
01:49 December 20, 2010 by vandeg
I to am from Michigan but where your from in Michigan can vary how much snow your area is used to. I live on the western side near Holland/Grand Rapids are and we get snow off the lake quite often, except for the storms that come off the plains. Which is way different from what you'd get if you lived in the upper peninsula, which is mostly arctic storms and plains storms.

Same can be applied in Europe but you have to figure in the North Atlantic and also ocean temps., ocean currents, and the Jet Stream. Then the overall geography of Europe dealing with mountains, plains, etc... Then some other factors that I probably cant think of or don't know about...
20:26 December 20, 2010 by paulfogarty
Germany is a little smaller in area than the US state of Montana... but it has 80 million people living in it, and close to half a billion living within a day's (or two) drive of the border in the rest of mainland Europe. And it's also in the middle of Western Europe and gets massive thru traffic from the surrounding countries France, Holland, Poland, Italy, Austria, and etc etc. Lots of trucks from Eastern Europe delivering goods manufactured at outsourced production plants where wages are cheaper, back into Germany and etc.

Just the vastly higher population density alone would account for much of Western Europe's difficulties dealing with a blizzard.
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