Mar 12, 2013 / 6:52 am
Frankfurt's airport closed, trains stopped running under the English Channel, and the French army was ordered to help clear roads, all because of a sudden dump of oddly late snowfall on Western Europe.
Less prepared for the kind of heavy snow that regularly hits northern and eastern neighbours, France, Germany, Britain and Belgium struggled Tuesday to keep moving amid the frosty, blustery conditions.
Instead of enjoying the onset of spring, travellers shivered in stranded cars, packed onto icy train platforms, or languished in airport waiting halls. Thousands of schoolchildren stayed home. Tens of thousands of homes were without electricity.
Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest, closed at midday after recording about 12 centimetres (5 inches) of snow. More than 355 had been cancelled by mid-afternoon.
The airport reopened one of its four runways only for take-offs after a brief respite in the snowfall, but the snow then resumed. And it's unclear how much longer the other three runways would remain closed.
North of Frankfurt, the A45 autobahn was shut down after more than 100 cars and trucks crashed in a pileup near Muenzenberg. Police said dozens of people were injured but that no deaths were reported.
At Paris' Orly Airport, a Tunisair jet skidded off the runway because of icy conditions, according to the airport authority. No one was injured but the incident caused even further delays at an airport that has suffered cancellations and problems all day.
Service on the Eurostar trains that go under the English Channel was suspended and the French army was called in to help as civilian authorities struggled to clear roads and rescue people stuck in cars and buses on snowed-in roads, notably in Normandy.
With up to 50 centimetres of snowfall in some areas of northern France, the government urged people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.
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