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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Friday, 8 January 2010

Germany prepares to face blizzard

Snow in Steinhude, near Hanover, 8 Jan 10
Snow blankets much of Germany, such as Steinhude in the north

German households have been advised to stock up on food, medicines and drinking water as the nation braces for a blizzard that is heading its way.

Germany's Civil Protection Office (BBK) says heavy snowfalls expected on Saturday could trigger local power cuts and severely disrupt public transport.

The snow is already more than 30cm (one foot) deep on the isle of Ruegen, off Germany's Baltic coast, ZDF TV says.

In Switzerland, heavy snow has cut the flow of lorries through Alpine tunnels.

The busy Gotthard and San Bernardino tunnels were temporarily closed to heavy goods vehicles on Friday, the Swissinfo news website reported.

Snowdrifts

Gale-force winds and drifting snow are expected to bring traffic to a standstill in many parts of Germany.

Red Cross workers prepare heated tents for homeless people in the western German city of Duesseldorf, 7 December 2010
Measures are being taken to protect the homeless from the weather

The German authorities say the situation is exacerbated by shortages of grit for clearing roads.

Airports have called in extra staff and rail operators have warned of delays.

Households have been advised to keep three or four days' worth of provisions, including alternative cooking fuel in case of power cuts. Among the essential items listed by the BBK is a battery-powered radio, for checking weather reports.

Spreading south

In the UK, the worst winter for decades has led to a fear for energy supplies as temperatures dropped as low as -22C (-8F) in some places.

"What is being forecast for the weekend could lead to chaotic traffic conditions and potentially leave large parts of Germany completely paralysed," warned the Auto Club Europa.

In cities like Duesseldorf, Red Cross workers were setting up heated tents for emergency accommodation as up to 10 homeless people have frozen to death in recent weeks because of the cold weather.

In the Netherlands, icebreakers have been deployed to clear shipping routes such as the Twente canal, the harbours of Almelo and Enschede and the Ijsselmeer inland sea.

Northern Spain is expecting more heavy snowfalls while the country's south has been hit by severe floods.

France is also braced for more snow. Meteo France warned: "The amount of snow expected is significant, exceptional even".

Parts of France - notably the south-western region of Provence - are without power and suffering transport delays after up to 20cm of snow fell in recent days.

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SEE ALSO
Airport chaos as Europe freezes
07 Jan 10 |  Europe
In pictures: A freezing Europe
06 Jan 10 |  In Pictures
Swiss rescuers hit by avalanche
03 Jan 10 |  Europe
Eurostar travel chaos hits hard
21 Dec 09 |  Europe

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Times Online Shortage of grit may leave millions stranded - 12 hrs ago
France24 WEATHER: Deadly cold brings Europe to a standstill - 15 hrs ago
RTE Online Germany braces for blizzard as Europe shivers - 24 hrs ago
Melbourne Age Europe braces for blizzard conditions - 29 hrs ago
News24.com Big freeze: Travellers stranded - 39 hrs ago



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