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Cold snap kills dozens across Europe

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-21

The death toll from extreme winter weather across Europe has risen to more than 50 on Monday, with treacherous roads and sub-zero temperatures reeking havoc across the continent.

AFP - The death toll from winter storms across Europe rose to more than 50 on Monday as transport chaos grew amid mounting anger over the failure of Eurostar high-speed trains.

With tens of thousands stranded by the cancellation of London to Paris trains and flights in several countries, new accidents added to the big freeze tumult.

A car that veered off an icy road caused the derailment of a Paris commuter train, injuring 36 people. Another commuter train in the Croatian capital hit a buffer Monday injuring 50 people.

Polish authorities said 42 people, many of them homeless, had died of cold over three days in the country after temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four Fahrenheit).

Six people were killed in accidents in Germany and three in Austria. France has reported at least two deaths of homeless, including one in the normally clement Mediterranean port of Marseille.

More flights were cancelled in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and main highways were blocked across Europe where some regions had more than 50 centimetres (nearly 20 inches) of snow.

The breakdown of the Eurostar service under the Channel, linking London with Paris and Brussels, has symbolised Europe's suffering.

After the nightmare of more than 2,000 people stuck in the tunnel when five trains broke down, tens of thousands more people have missed trains that have been cancelled since Friday night.

With no services planned until at least Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned the head of the state SNCF rail company, Guillaume Pepy, for a showdown meeting.

The French transport ministry has ordered an investigation into the breakdown, which Eurostar said has been caused by trains unable to handle the change from freezing temperatures outside to warm temperatures in the tunnel.

France's Durable Development Minister Jean-Louis Borloo called the treatment of Eurostar passengers "unbelievable".

Eurostar said it had launched its own review by independent experts into the breakdown.

The winter storms caused other accidents across Europe.

A Paris commuter train derailed late Sunday injuring at least 36 people, according to authorities. A car swerved on ice and hit a bridge wall sending concrete onto the rails of the commuter line, police said. Firefighters had to evacuate 300 people on the train.

The main commuter line running east to west across the Paris region has been out of action for 12 days because of a strike.

Authorities also investigated whether heavy snow caused a crash at Zagreb's main railway station where the commuter train smashed into a concrete buffer. One person among the 50 injured suffered life-threatening injuries, police said.

Air traffic was again badly hit across Europe. Where temperatures remained glacial: minus 20 Celsius in Sibiu in Romania, where more than 50 centimetres of snow fell, and minus seven Celsius in Venice, Italy.

Seven hundred people spent the night on camp beds at Amsterdam-Schipol airport. Authorities said more flights were likely to be cancelled after dozens were grounded Sunday.

The Dutch rail network was also badly hit Monday with the railway company advising commuters to stay at home.

Heavy snowfall led to more delays and cancellations at Frankfurt and Duesseldorf airports in Germay, where more than 500 flights were cancelled or redirected on Sunday.

At least six people died throughout Germany over the weekend due to exposure to Arctic temperatures or in car accidents.

Temperatures are forecast to rise this week after hitting a frigid minus 33.6 degrees Celsius (minus 28.5 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday in Bavaria.

Twenty percent of flights out of Paris-Charles de Gaulle were cancelled Monday morning nearly all those that managed to take off were delayed by up to 90 minutes.

Only two of the four runways at Madrid-Barajas airport operated Monday because of heavy snow and an airport spokesman said more than 50 arrivals or departures had been cancelled.

Flights from Lisbon to Madrid were among those cancelled while main roads in northern Portugal were cut by snow.

Brussels airport also reported cancellations and delays.

Date created : 2009-12-21


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