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  • Bitter cold kills 8, slams air traffic in Europe

    Published on December 2, 2010

    Heavy snow and subzero temperatures swept across Europe, killing at least eight homeless people in Poland, closing major airports in Britain and Switzerland and causing hundreds of highway accidents.

    Gatwick, London’s second largest airport, and Geneva, a major hub for low-cost carrier Easyjet, were forced to shut down today as staff struggled to clear runways of snow. Edinburgh airport in Scotland, Leeds airport in northern England, and Chambery and Grenoble in southeastern France also were closed.

    Eurocontrol, the central air control agency, reported severe flight delays in Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Prague and Paris Orly.

    In Poland, police said eight men died yesterday night after a bitter cold front roared in, with temperatures falling to around -20 Celsius.

    Police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said the men, from different parts of the country, had been drinking. The eastern Polish city of Bialystok hit -26 Celsius on Tuesday night.

    Winter weather caused some 2,000 accidents on German roads on Tuesday, officials said.

    In northern Austria, police said a 69-year-old retiree froze to death overnight when he slipped on a snow-covered bridge on his way home from a funeral and lost consciousness.

    Officials at Gatwick, south of London, said the airport would remain closed until early Thursday, stranding about 600 flights that were expected to leave today. Extra staff were working “around the clock” to clear the runways, and passengers were advised to check with their airline or Gatwick’s website for updates.

    Gatwick was under five to six inches of snow this morning and has seen continuous snowfall throughout the day, said spokeswoman Andrea Hopkins, adding that she was unable to provide a current estimate.

    Geneva has seen 10 inches of fresh snow on Tuesday and many travellers unable to find a room spent the night in civil protection shelters. Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest airport, reported delays and cancellations on the day many VIPs, including former President Bill Clinton and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, were travelling to FIFA’s headquarters to push their countries’ bids to host the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.

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