The German Weather Service (DWD) issued severe weather warnings for almost the entire country after a low-pressure system brought thawing temperatures with rain to parts of the country overnight. The weather led to hazardous driving and walking conditions as the moisture hit the frozen ground.
At least 30 people were injured after a truck smashed into coach travelling from Kosovo on the A8 motorway near Augsburg in Bavaria.
The police said the bus hit a patch of ice that caused it come to a stop sideways across the motorway. The Italian truck was unable to break in time and it crashed directly into the coach. Four seriously injured passengers were taken to a clinic in Augsburg via helicopter.
Dangerously slippery streets across Lower Saxony also effectively shut down the northern state’s schools.
“You can say that there’s no school in Lower Saxony,” said a police spokesman in Hannover.
In the capital Berlin, a thin film of rain had frozen on roads and footpaths to create treacherously slippery, virtually invisible ice sheets. Pedestrians were slowed to crawling pace as they gingerly tip-toed around town.
Flights at the city’s Tegel Airport were also temporarily suspended as de-icer was strewn on the runways.
A police spokeswoman in neighbouring Potsdam said there had been many accidents in western Brandenburg, the state surrounding the capital, on Thursday morning.
Within just one half-hour period, some 30 car accidents had happened with four people reported suffering injuries. In most cases, however, the damage had been to vehicles only, the spokeswoman said.
Motorways in the area were considered highly dangerous. The A24 motorway had six accidents in a short period. Two people were injured when two cars crashed head-on along the B2 road between Potsdam and Groß Glienicke.
The A38 motorway between Allstedt and Eisleben in Saxony-Anhalt had to be shut in both directions. The police in the state also warned that the A14 between Halle and Magdeburg was particularly icy.
The freezing rain also hampered bus traffic in Schleswig-Holstein and caused countless accidents. The authorities there reported that roads had a sheet of ice two centimetres thick in some places.
Though northern Germany was particularly hard hit, parts of Bavaria also reported widespread ice.
“People should stay at home,” said a police spokesman in Lower Franconia. “Nothing’s moving here.”
The DWD expected the situation on Germany’s roads to improve over the course of the day as temperatures rise, however, warned that there could once again be freezing rain on Thursday night.
The DWD also forecast the thaw to continue into the weekend, potentially causing sporadic flooding and even landslides as steady rain melts a month’s worth of snow.