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WEATHER

Snow and ice thaws after hundreds of accidents on Germany’s streets

The onset of winter kept emergency services across the country busy on Sunday night. But on Monday morning most of the snow and ice had melted with the arrival of milder temperatures.

Snow and ice thaws after hundreds of accidents on Germany’s streets
Cars in Hamburg driving along slushy streets early in the morning on Monday. Photo: DPA.

Forecasts of wintry conditions predicted by the German Weather Service (DWD) last Friday turned out to be accurate; the arrival of ice and snow led to chaotic traffic situations in many parts of Germany.

Operations continued early into the morning as police in some regions dealt with hundreds of accidents. Police in Leipzig alone were faced with about one hundred traffic accidents within four hours.

But since many vehicle drivers had driven cautiously as a result to the slippery roads, not many serious accidents occurred. At the start of rush hour on Monday, the roads in many parts of Germany were clear again as much of the snow and ice had melted thanks to a rise in temperatures.

Prior to the big thaw there were numerous road accidents.

When a car in Schleswig-Holstein crashed into a tree – probably because the roads were slippery, according to the police – four senior citizens inside were seriously injured.

In Brandenburg, police reported that 66 weather-related accidents occurred between 5:30pm on Sunday and 4am on Monday morning and 21 people were slightly injured.

In Saxony-Anhalt, almost 300 accidents took place on Sunday and at least 42 people were injured.

But it wasn’t just the roads which were affected due to the wintry conditions.

More than 300 flights were cancelled and hundreds more delayed as snow and ice blocked runways at Germany's largest airport in Frankfurt on Sunday, the airport operator said.

Some 330 flights were cancelled by 5:00pm after heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures struck the region around the financial capital, a spokesman for airport operator Fraport told AFP.

Elsewhere in the country, Düsseldorf airport was forced to close for four hours on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, trains were delayed, redirected or cancelled across North Rhine-Westphalia. The high-speed rail route between Cologne and Frankfurt was temporarily shut down before opening up again on Monday morning.

At a Christmas market near Aachen, police are still investigating how a Christmas tree managed to tip over and fall onto a carousel at a Christmas market. Five adults were injured in the incident, one of them sustaining serious injuries.

A spokesman for the Aachen police said an investigation into whether the tree had fallen over due to gusts of wind or whether an error had been made in the setting up of the tree was still underway.

DWD warned against storms early in the morning on Monday in which strong winds were expected in the southern area of Germany around the Alps.

WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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