Page last updated at 01:43 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

More than 80 dead in European winter weather

A priest walks in snow in Kiev, 21 December
Temperatures in Ukraine are expected to improve by Wednesday

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 over the last three days and another 27 in Ukraine.

Another 13 people died in car accidents in Austria, Finland and Germany, where temperatures fell to -33C (-27F).

Air, rail and road transport links were disrupted across northern Europe where more snow was expected in coming days.

Many roads in the south of the UK were gridlocked - there were numerous reports of crashes on motorways and of people abandoning their cars.

'Saturation point'

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.

The crisis prompted French President Nicolas Sarkozy to call the head of national rail carrier SNCF, the majority stakeholder in Eurostar.

Delayed Eurostar passengers at St Pancras on Sunday
Day-trips bookings will not be honoured and day-trip customers are advised not to travel
To rebook travel to an alternative date, call the Eurotunnel contact centre on 08443 35 35 35 or amend your booking online
Customers without a reservation are advised not to make their way to Eurotunnel as they will not be able to purchase a ticket
Pre-booked customers are advised to call the 24-hour automated customer information line 08444 63 00 00 for the latest travel information

Meanwhile 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.

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.

Meanwhile, one restaurant owner offered tens of thousands of homeless people a hot meal in Krakow's main square.

"The food is not the only important thing," restaurateur Janusz Kosciuszko was quoted as telling Euronews.

"What is also important is that these people know that someone is thinking about them."

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

Treacherous travel conditions also caused havoc for rail services.

Fifty people were injured when a train hit a buffer in the Croatian city of Zagreb, while 36 were injured when a passenger train derailed in Paris.

Airports closed

Parts of the continent saw 20in (50cm) of snow over the weekend.

Domestic rail services across the UK have been severely delayed, with buses replacing trains in many areas.

Planes in the snow at Dusseldorf airport, Germany (21 Dec 2009)
Germany's Dusseldorf airport was among those shut down by heavy snow

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.

The AA, one of the UK's largest motoring and vehicle recovery organisations, said it had attended more than 20,000 breakdowns by 2030 GMT.

Normally it would expect to deal with about 10,000 vehicles for the whole of a Monday in December.

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

In France, a second wave of snowstorms hit the country's north on Sunday with Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport warning as many as one in five flights was likely to be cancelled on Monday.

Germany's third largest airport - in Dusseldorf - was also closed because of Sunday's heavy snow.

In Belgium, the three biggest airports - Brussels, Charleroi and Liege - were completely shut. Severe delays and cancellations were reported at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Moscow said it was deploying 9,000 snow-clearing machines to clear the city's streets.

Temperatures were forecast to rise later in the week.


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