Snow, high winds paralyze European airports, claim lives

An extreme cold snap across Europe claimed more lives, forced the closure of airports in Scotland, Switzerland, France and Ireland and left hundreds of drivers stranded on snowy highways.

Irish PM warns risks should 'not be underestimated' as severe weather slams communities

A man makes his way through the snow on Thursday in Balloch, Scotland. Freezing weather conditions dubbed the 'Beast from the East' have combined with Storm Emma coming in from the southwest of Britain to bring further snow and sub-zero temperatures, causing chaos on roads and shutting schools. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

An extreme cold snap across Europe claimed more lives, forced the closure of airports in Scotland, Switzerland, France and Ireland and left hundreds of drivers stranded on snowy highways Thursday.

Heavy snow and high winds halted all flights in and out of Dublin Airport, with authorities saying they are unlikely to resume until Saturday. Irish Rail said no trains are likely to run until Saturday.

Forecasters said a new storm is bringing blizzards, 100 km/h winds, freezing rain and thunderstorms to Ireland, southwestern England and Wales later Thursday. They predicted zero visibility and deep pockets of snow.

The storm was even felt in central London on Wednesday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar urged people to get home by 4 p.m. Thursday and stay there until the storm has passed.

"The risk to life and limb presented by severe weather conditions should not be underestimated," said Varadkar.

The World Health Organization warned Thursday that the cold weather poses particular risks to vulnerable people such as the elderly, children and those with chronic diseases or disabilities.

Volunteers of the German Johanniter Order aid organization distributed meals to people in need and homeless people in Hanover as part of their winter bus operation earlier this week. (Ole Spata/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteers were also offering hot soup and tea to the homeless in Bucharest earlier this week after the Romanian National Weather Institute issued a warning about extreme cold. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)

Swedish media reported that a woman who had left her home at an asylum centre with her daughter and son, aged eight and nine, was pronounced dead in the hospital after being found in a forest.

The Aftonbladet daily newspaper reported the woman was "poorly dressed" and her daughter was in intensive care. The son was found safe and sound Wednesday afternoon when temperatures in the region were about -10 C.

Danish police said an 84-year-old woman with dementia became the second person to die in the country because of the cold weather. She left her home Wednesday evening and was found Thursday in a park in Roskilde, west of Copenhagen, police said.

Travel chaos — on the road and at airports 

Geneva's airport closed after the Swiss city was hit with 13 centimetres of snow over a three-hour period early Thursday. It reopened several hours later after extensive de-icing of the runway, plans and facilities.

Snow also shut down Glasgow and Edinburgh airports in Scotland, and there were cancellations at Heathrow and other airports in Britain. Airports in the southern French cities of Montpellier and the Atlantic beach resort of Biarritz were also affected.

CBC's Thomas Daigle said the storm has resulted in snow days for many children in London — a rare event in that city.

Daigle said there were only a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground but it was causing "treacherous conditions on the road because the country is simply not set up, and used to, dealing with those sorts of conditions on the roads, on the rails and ... at the airports."

Drivers were being urged to stay off the road Thursday as snowplows cleared the way along the M80 motorway, near Castlecary, Scotland. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)
The roads were in rough shape, but that didn't keep this cyclist off the street near Sterling Castle, Scotland. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)

Hundreds of drivers were trapped in their cars overnight in Scotland, including on the busy M80 highway, and authorities said everyone except emergency workers should stay off the roads. 

Around the Paris region, about two dozen officials braved arctic temperatures for a night outdoors to call attention to the plight of the homeless after at least 13 died from exposure since Jan. 1.

Dragging blankets and sleeping bags, officials from an array of political parties wearing their blue, white and red sashes hunkered down near Austerlitz train station as snow began falling early Thursday. The city was blanketed in white by daybreak.

Police in the county of Lincolnshire in eastern England said most roads there are impassable, with as much as 60 centimetres of snow in rural areas.

A woman removes the snow that blocks her car in Saint-Chaffrey as winter weather bringing snow and freezing temperatures continued in France on Thursday. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

In southern France, about 2,000 cars were blocked on highways in the Herault region, where snow — and snowplows — are extremely rare.

Macedonia's government, meanwhile, urged employers to exempt pregnant women and people over 60 from working for a day and to pay special attention to keeping construction workers warm due to the freezing conditions. The low temperature Thursday in Macedonia dropped to -18 C near the border with Bulgaria.

Last blast of winter?

But it wasn't all worry, muck and mess — some people were trying to make the most of the late-season blast of winter weather.

Children played in the snow at a park in Pogradec, in southeast Albania, on Tuesday. (Gent Shkullaku/AFP/Getty Images)
Skaters enjoyed the natural ice at the Dutch 'Zaanse Schans' near Zaandam on Thursday. (Remko De Waal/AFP/Getty Images)
People enjoy sledging in a park in Glasgow on Thursday following a heavy snowfall. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Battery Belles and Buoys, a wild sea swimming group whose members swim every day in the sea at from the Battery Rocks in Penzance take a dip in the sea as heavy snow arrives on Wednesday in Cornwall, England. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
The snow and weather warnings didn't stop this surfer in Redcar, U.K. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
This man found an interesting way to get around during a heavy snowfall in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on Monday. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

With files from CBC News