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Blizzard slams Germany

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Photo: DPA
08:48 CET+01:00
The blizzard “Petra” hammered Germany with more snow on Friday, causing countess road accidents, shutting down air traffic and trapping hundreds of people in an icy train.

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.

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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.

DPA/ka

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