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 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 12:36 GMT
Severe weather batters France
Road chaos in France
Road traffic was reduced to a crawl
Heavy snow has caused transport chaos in northern France, delaying flights and reducing road traffic to a crawl.

Thousands of passengers spent the night in the French capital's main airport after flights were cancelled by a combination of ice, snow and strong crosswinds that made runways too dangerous to use.

Queues at airline desks at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris stretched for hundreds of yards on Sunday morning.

Emergency workers sandbagging a river dyke in Germany
Rivers in Germany have burst their banks
The Paris airports company, ADP, said a large number of incoming passenger planes heading for Charles de Gaulle had either being turned back or rerouted towards other airports.

At one point, police were called to calm angry passengers whose flight to the Dominican Republic had been cancelled.

Flights through the city's second airport, Orly, were less badly affected, an ADP official said.

The snowstorm also slowed road traffic to a crawl, with snow blocking a number of motorways across northern France including those from Paris to Lille and Paris to Metz.

Click here for pictures of the chaos

The National Center for Traffic Information described the snowfall as "remarkable" for the Paris region, where heavy snows are unusual, and warned motorists that the wintry conditions could "turn roads into real ice rinks".

In the Alps up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) of new snowfall has increased the risk of avalanches.

Two Czech mountaineers were killed in an avalanche in the Tatras mountain ranges in central Slovakia on Friday.

The bodies of the two men, aged 54 and 28, were found on Saturday after emergency workers were alerted by the third member of the group.

Flooding

Several other European countries have also seen severe winter weather, with heavy rain, high winds and bitterly cold conditions causing death and disruption in recent days.

Rivers have burst their banks in Germany, Belgium, Portugal and the UK, and there are warnings that further rain could flood thousands of homes.

Storms in Germany claimed their third victim on Saturday when a woman drowned near the southern German city of Regensburg.

A 71-year-old man was also reported missing in the west near the border with Luxembourg - his car was found empty after being swept away by floods.

Two other people died on Friday - a 13-year-old boy who was in a car hit by a falling tree in the south and an 18-year-old man whose car crashed in heavy snow in the north.

In Italy, a third of Venice was flooded on Friday, including the famous Saint Mark's Square.

"This winter has been a real disaster," Venice mayor Paolo Costa said.

In Poland, 183 people have died of hypothermia, many of them reportedly homeless people who were sleeping outdoors.

In Moscow, the number of people who have died because of hypothermia so far this winter has reportedly reached 227.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"One main motorway into the city has been closed"
See also:

05 Jan 03 | Europe
24 Dec 02 | Europe
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