Snow grounds flights at Dutch airports


The Hague (AFP)

Snow wreaked havoc in the low-lying Netherlands on Monday, closing down Eindhoven airport completely, shutting schools and leading to transport chaos with hundreds of flights and trains cancelled or delayed.

The rare winter show may have delighted children, who once again set off in search of any slope on their sledges, but it proved a headache elsewhere as the National Weather Centre (KNMI) issued its highest code red warning.

Schiphol airport, just outside Amsterdam, was forced to cancel 430 flights already by early afternoon -- about a third of all of flights in or out of one of Europe's top five busiest air hubs, and many others faced long delays.

"We are de-icing the planes for their safety and we have snow crews out trying to keep the runways clear and remove the snow, but they can't keep up," Schiphol spokesman Paul Weber told AFP.

"People should keep in touch, look at the website, and find out how to reach us as the trains are having difficulty," he said, warning that even though most of the snow was supposed to melt by Tuesday there would likely still be delays in flights.

Eindhoven airport, the country's second biggest, said just after midday that "due to wintry weather conditions, the runway is currently closed."

"Some arriving flights will divert, departing flights are delayed or will be cancelled," it said in a message on Twitter.

The snow arrived in The Netherlands early Sunday, and the weather centre warned that while more was expected across the whole of the country on Monday, a band stretching from the south to the eastern border regions could see as much as between 10 to 15 centimetres (four to five inches).

Spokeswoman Femke Goutbeek said it was "not unusual" for the KNMI to declare a code red warning, but it was more often for the fierce storms which can rip across the country off the North Sea.

For those who struggled into work on Monday, the national railway NS had but one message. "Go home as early as possible to avoid travel problems."

"Travellers should take into account that there will be longer travel times," it warned on its website, adding it was running a reduced service.

But for those out for some fun, plans for a giant snow ball fight outside the central station in The Hague later Monday attracted several hundred likes on Facebook.