Dublin (March 02, 2018): Heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe Thursday, forcing airports to cancel or delay flights around the continent, as a deep freeze gripped countries from the far north to Mediterranean beaches in the south.
The snowstorms, unusual for much of Europe at this time of year, left roads blocked, thousands of drivers stranded and schools shut, with weather agencies predicting the biting cold would continue in parts of the region at least until Thursday evening.The death toll Europe-wide climbed to more than 55, as another three people perished in Poland, taking the number of victims there to 21, most of them rough sleepers.
In Slovakia, exposure to the cold has claimed the lives of seven people since Sunday, the Medical Rescue Service told the journalists.
There have also been six deaths in the Czech Republic in recent days, five in Lithuania, four in France, three in Spain, two each in Italy, Serbia, Romania and Slovenia, and one each in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the Spanish victims was a 39-year-old homeless man who had been sleeping in an abandoned truck.“Those most at risk of cold-related illness include elderly people, children, and people who have chronic diseases or physical or mental limitations,” the World Health Organization said in a statement, adding that the poor, the homeless and migrants were often hardest hit.
The Siberian cold front — dubbed the “Beast from the East” in Britain, “Siberian bear” by the Dutch and the “snow cannon” by Swedes — on Thursday forced Geneva airport to close for several hours in the morning, with temperatures plunging in Switzerland to nearly minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 38 Fahrenheit) at higher altitudes.Snow forced the cancellation of all flights at Dublin airport with services not expected to resume until Saturday at the earliest. Strong winds led KLM airlines to cancel or delay dozens of flights in to and out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
Some people enjoyed the cold, with families taking children and pets out to play. But many who took out their ice skates discovered the waters were not frozen enough. The mercury also dropped below freezing across southern Europe.Snowfall in northern Italy forced the cancellation of 50 percent of regional trains, while in the city of Naples, schools were shut.
In normally balmy southern France, beaches in Nice were blanketed in a thick layer of snow. Near the city of Montpellier, around 2,000 drivers were stranded on a motorway, causing anger from those sitting behind the wheel for hours on end.
In Paris, which awoke Thursday under a blanket of snow, authorities continued operating emergency shelters for the city’s roughly 3,000 homeless.
Demanding more efforts to keep people off the streets, around 30 local officials spent the night near the city’s Gare d’Austerlitz train station as temperatures dipped below zero.