22 Dec 2009

Europe's freezing cold kills at least 80

8:42 pm on 22 December 2009

More than 80 people have died across Europe as days of snow storms and sub-zero temperatures swept the continent, causing traffic chaos for millions.

At least 42 people have frozen to death in Poland and another 27 in Ukraine. Another 13 people died in car accidents in Austria, Finland and Germany, where temperatures fell to -33 degrees Celsius.

The BBC reports disruption to air, rail and road transport links across northern Europe, where more snow is expected in coming days.

Many roads in the south of Britain were gridlocked, with numerous reports of crashes on motorways and of people abandoning their cars. Domestic rail services across the UK have also been severely delayed, with buses replacing trains in many areas.

Eurostar said it would run a "restricted" service on Tuesday after a three-day shutdown stranded some 75,000 people. Only passengers originally due to travel Saturday or Sunday would be eligible, and the remaining backlog would be cleared over the next few days.

Eurotunnel - which carries vehicles under the Channel between England and France - said its terminal at Folkestone was at "saturation point" and closed its shuttle car service to new arrivals.

Homeless die in Poland

In Poland, police appealed for people to help if they came across homeless or drunk people lying outside, as temperatures dropped towards -20C in some areas.

Most of the 42 people who froze to death in the country over the weekend were homeless, police said.

Cold-related deaths were also reported in France, where two homeless people died.

Airports closed

On Monday evening, British Airways cancelled all its domestic and European flights from the main London airport, Heathrow. Passengers were offered replacement coach travel. Other airports in the country were closed completely.

In France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, airport operators struggled to clear runways amid thick snowfall, with major disruption to flight patterns.

Temperatures are forecast to rise later in the week.