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Snow cripples transport, causes blackouts

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Snow cripples transport, causes blackouts
Passengers sleeping at the Frankfurt airport on Wednesday night. Photo: DPA
08:35 CET+01:00
Wintry weather hammered Germany on Thursday, as ice and snow snarled rail and road traffic, cancelled flights, and caused power outages in eastern parts of the country.

Thousands of people in the counties of Saale-Orla and Saalfeld-Rudolstadt in Thuringia have been without electricity for past 12 hours, according to the energy company EON.

Trees toppling from heavy snow and ice rain ripped down power lines. “We can hardly make it to the areas needing repairs,” said a utility spokesman.

Snowfall and black ice caused transport chaos across much of the country, with the Frankfurt Airport – Germany's most important hub – closed for several hours overnight.

Click here for photos of Germany's winter weather.

The worst winter conditions were reported in the states of Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Bavarian, Thuringia and Saxony, with closures, delays and accidents reported for roads, trains and air traffic.

Treacherous runways at the Frankfurt Airport forced officials to close it down due to poor visibility and fears that landing planes would be unable to brake properly.

Over 400 flights were cancelled by midday Thursday. “We expect further cancellations and delays,” said Gunnar Schneunemann, spokesman for airport operator Fraport.

Over 3,000 passengers were stranded in the airport's terminals on Wednesday night, sleeping on piles of their clothing, newspapers and luggage carousels.

"What's going on here?" asked one stranded businesswoman from Canada. "There's a little snow on the ground and suddenly everything breaks down."

Even the sultry heat of Latina superstar Shakira fell prey to winter's icy grip on Europe – her concert in Frankfurt on Wednesday night had to be cancelled after the singer was trapped in Paris.

Around 700 people had to spend the night at Munich Airport after their flights to Frankfurt were rerouted to the Bavarian capital. An airport spokesman said several flights were cancelled on Thursday morning due to the weather.

More than 200 flights were also cancelled in snowy Berlin on Thursday. The city's Schönefeld Airport had to shut down completely after it ran out of deicing fluid for the planes. A truck with fresh supplies was reportedly caught in a traffic jam caused by the snow.

Meanwhile felled trees and chunks of ice blocked tracks forced national rail provider Deutsche Bahn to reroute and cancel several routes. Travel between Nuremberg and Leipzig was particularly hard hit.

Two high-speed ICE trains between Berlin and Munich were rerouted because too much snow had gathered on tracks, a spokesperson said.

Deutsche Bahn also issued a general warning of cancellations and delays in the states of Thuringia and Saxony “due to the weather conditions.” In some cases the company has been unable to find enough buses to replace their cancelled services. And road conditions in Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate were so dangerous that bus service was also suspended.

Roads are likely to remain treacherous with up to 20 centimetres of new snow expected in parts of the country on Thursday. Particularly the regions near the Alps and the central mountain ranges will be blanketed. Making matters worse, there will be strong winds at higher altitudes and along the North Sea coast.

Click here for The Local's weather forecast.

DPA/DAPD/ka

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