Snow cancels flights in Europe

Heavy overnight snowfall disrupted air travel across western Europe Friday, forcing more than 800 flight cancellations and leading to major delays in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

U.K. cold snap closes schools

Snowplows clear a road outside the Swiss city of Uster Friday after the region was hit by strong snowfalls. ((Christian Hartmann/Reuters))

Heavy overnight snowfall disrupted air travel across western Europe Friday, forcing more than 800 flight cancellations and leading to major delays in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Germany appeared the hardest hit by the snow, with more than 600 flights cancelled, schools forced to close and highways clogged with traffic after scores of accidents that killed at least three people and injured dozens.

Snow also hindered flights in the neighbouring Netherlands, where Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport saw more than 100 cancellations and major delays ahead of the busy Christmas holiday season, spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang said.

The European control agency Eurocontrol said passengers at Schiphol, one of continental Europe's busiest airports, had to expect delays of up to 4½ hours.

Switzerland's main airport in Zurich also reported delays, and a total of 84 flights were cancelled, spokeswoman Sonja Zoechling said. Geneva saw about 20 flight cancellations.

In Frankfurt, 300 flights had been cancelled by late morning, and the number is expected to rise throughout the day, airport spokesman Timo Ross said. About 20 centimetres of snow blanketed the state overnight, also causing the closure of schools around Frankfurt and elsewhere in Hesse.

The airport, continental Europe's second-biggest hub, had to be closed for about an hour late Thursday, and an estimated 1,000 passengers were stranded overnight, Ross said.

Munich airport, Germany's second-largest, reported 113 cancellations and major delays; Duesseldorf and Stuttgart saw more than 20 cancellations each.

A traffic jam is pictured on a snow-covered motorway in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Thursday. ((Ina Fassbender/Reuters) )

Roads were clogged by snow, and in North-Rhine Westphalia state alone authorities reported traffic jams of more than 185 kilometres on highways, and 251 weather-related accidents that left 19 people injured.

Officials in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said there were 108 weather-related accidents that left 17 people injured.   

Two men died in a traffic accident in the southern state of Bavaria, according to authorities. The men, 54 and 44 years old, were trying to help a friend to pull his car out of the snow near Straubing late Thursday when they were struck by an oncoming car, police said in a statement.

Trains cancelled, schools shut in U.K.

A wave of snow and icy weather was also causing travel problems across Britain, with trains cancelled, schools shut and cars sliding on icy roads.

One motorist in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, Kirsty McCullogh, told BBC radio it had taken her five hours to drive 6.4 kilometres.

"It's absolutely awful, the roads are sheet ice — they've not been gritted at all," she said.

Snow-covered bicycles are seen next to the underground station Munich Perlach in Munich on Wednesday. ((Michaela Rehle/Reuters) )

Belfast International Airport was closed Friday morning because of snow, and there were delays and cancellations at other airports including Aberdeen, Birmingham and Luton.

In Denmark, the state postal service reported snow in the past weeks has caused a high number of injuries to the country's 12,000 letter carriers — including broken limbs.

PostDanmark reported 355 carriers have so far been injured since November, compared with a total of 450 during last year's entire winter, the B.T. newspaper reported.

The postal service has acknowledged that the snow may delay Christmas letters — and most importantly — parcels with presents.

Even where snow is desperately needed, too much of it proved to be a curse: The women's World Cup super-G downhill skiing event in Val d'Isere in south-eastern France was called off due to too heavy snowfall overnight and Friday morning.