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In PHOTOS: Travel chaos in frozen Europe

Last updated on: December 20, 2010 14:14 IST

Travel chaos in frozen Europe

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Heavy snowfall has paralysed air-services in Europe as tarmacs remained under thick white blanket, leaving thousands of travellers stranded during the busy Christmas season.

At Frankfurt airport in Germany, more than 700 flights remained grounded last evening as heavy snow and sleet on runways made take-offs and landings difficult.

No improvement is expected on Monday as snowfall continued in night, officials said.

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Image: A airfield worker stands on a ladder as he removes snow from an aircraft parked on the tarmac of Zurich airport in Kloten after the region was hit by strong snow fall
Photographs: Christian Hartmann/Reuters
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The airport is bracing for more stranded passengers after weathermen predicted further problems on Monday with up to 20 centimetres of snow falling in some places.

Airport authorities said even though snow-clearing teams struggled to keep the runways and aircraft snow free, cancellations and delays at other European airports also had a knock-on effect on the operations in Frankfurt.

An estimated 3,000 air-travellers have been stranded at the Frankfurt Airport, since the travel chaos began on Friday.


Image: Travellers sleep at the main terminal of Frankfurt's airport
Photographs: Alex Domanski/Reuters
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Many of them have been put up in hotels by their airlines.

"The entire flight plan at the airport is in disarray," officials said. Europe's busiest airport in London -- Heathrow -- stopped accepting arrivals on Sunday, causing havoc at the start of the Christmas travel rush with thousands of fliers stranded.

The British air-hub said delays and cancellations would spill into next week. Similarly, hundreds of passengers were forced to spend night at London's Gatwick Airport due to cancellations and flight delays.



Image: An engineer stands next to a snow covered British Airways aeroplane at Edinburgh Airport, in Edinburgh, Scotland
Photographs: David Moir/Reuters
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At Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, more than 40 per cent flights were cancelled and many passengers slept in makeshift dormitories.

Over 1,500 passengers spent their second night at the Brussels airport mainly because connection flights from London, Frankfurt or other snow-hit cities are not leaving.

Officials at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport said more than 1,700 beds were "far too less" for around 3,000 passengers stranded there and many of them had to sleep on sofas or on floor.


Image: Airline travellers sleep at Zaventem international airport near Brussels
Photographs: Thierry Roge/Reuters
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At Germany's second largest airport in Munich, around 50 flights were cancelled yesterday and around 200 stranded passengers spent the night on camping beds.

Flight delays and cancellations were also reported at the airports in Hamburg, Berlin and Hannover.

Several hundred stranded passengers spent the third consecutive night at Frankfort airport, sleeping on more than 1,000 camping beds, the officials said.


Image: Workers use a snowplough to remove snow from the tarmac of Zurich airport
Photographs: Christian Hartmann/Reuters
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The officials said even if the airport returns to its normal operating schedule on Tuesday, it will take several days to clear the huge backlog of passengers built up in the past few days.


Image: A worker walks past a plane parked on the snow covered tarmac of Zurich airport
Photographs: Christian Hartmann/Reuters
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German airlines Lufthansa operated a contingency flight plan for its domestic and European flights, curtailing the number of flights taking off and landing in Frankfurt.

The airline said its new flight schedule, introduced on Saturday, will remain in force till Monday.


Image: An Emirates aircraft is de-iced after heavy snowfall at Dusseldorf airport
Photographs: Ina Fassbender/Reuters
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Icy conditions curtailed Europe's high-speed train services and left cars skidding through slushy streets.

The Eurostar railway service operating between Britain and France announced cancellations of some trains and imposed speed restrictions, which would extend the journey time by more than an hour.



Image: Snow covers rail tracks on the line to Gatwick Airport, in southern England
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
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The German railways reported that its long-distance trains were operating, but some of them have been delayed.

It also warned passengers that the trains are overcrowded because many stranded airline passengers are taking its service to reach their destinations.

The country's railways too imposed speed restrictions for its high-speed express trains.



Image: A commuter train travels into Malmo central railway station during heavy snow
Photographs: Johan Nilsson/Scanpix Sweden/Reuters
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