Image: Closed highway
A police officer directs a car to exit the A20 motorway to a parking area near Grimmen, northern Germany, on Sunday after the highway was closed due to heavy snowfall and snow banks piled up by gale force winds.
updated 1/10/2010 12:26:51 PM ET 2010-01-10T17:26:51

Heavy snowfall caused havoc in parts of Europe on Sunday, causing hundreds of traffic accidents, downing power lines in Poland, halting flights out of southern France and trapping more than 160 people overnight on a frozen highway in northeastern coastal Germany.

The 148 adults and 19 children stuck on Germany's A20 highway survived by running their car engines until rescuers using snow plows and excavators pushed through 6.5-foot drifts to free them Sunday morning, police in the town of Altentreptow said.

"At least the firefighters were able to bring them hot beverages and food while they were waiting," said Jens Apelt, a spokesman for the Altentreptow highway police. After being rescued, the people were brought to tents set up by local aid organizations until rescuers could unblock all the cars.

"We're trying to free all cars from the snow so that the drivers can get back to their vehicles and take a different road instead," Apelt said.

Hundreds of weather-related road accidents were reported in Germany after a second day of heavy snowfall, especially along the Baltic Coast. Two men were killed when their car hit a tree in Nordvorpommern.

Ferry service across the Baltic to Scandinavia was canceled, and rough sea swells flooded several streets in the cities of Flensburg and Luebeck while threatening to break levees in the village of Dahmeshoeved. Rescue teams were busy repairing damage, the Germany news agency DAPD said.

"The waves of the Baltic Sea are whipping against the boardwalk, pulling bricks out of the wall with incredible power which are flying around uncontrollably," police in Luebeck-Travemuende said in a statement.

Lyon airport closes
In southeastern France, about 800 people at a snowbound airport in Lyon spent the night huddled on waiting room armchairs or camping cots, after flights in and out of the southeastern city were halted Saturday night. Flights resumed gradually Sunday morning.

Slideshow: Winter’s global grip France's TF1 TV said freezing rain overnight made a virtual skating rink out of one highway near Tours in France's Loire Valley, with some cars skidding out of control and crashing into road barriers.

In southern Poland, about 80,000 people were without electricity Sunday after snow-laden tree branches cracked, damaging several power lines, the news agency PAP reported.

In the German city of Anklam, near the Polish border, rescue team freed a regional train carrying 14 passengers that was stuck in drifts, DAPD reported. Many trains in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania were not running because of snow blocking tracks, the railways said.

Several German coastal and island towns were also cut off from electricity.

At Frankfurt airport, 61 flights were canceled and more than 400 people spent the night at the airport.

In southern Denmark, strong winds and snowfall also caused chaos on the roads. Armored military tanks were put on duty to assist emergency vehicles through the snow, while authorities warned that big "wind-sensitive vehicles" should not cross the Oresund bridge to Sweden.

26 deaths in Britain
In Britain, the Press Association news agency put the number of weather-related deaths at 26 — including a woman who died after being found lying in the snow in a wooded area in northern England, and a 90-year-old woman who fell and froze to death in her garden earlier this week.

British forecasters predicted temperatures would remain frigid in many areas for the next week. The Red Cross and the military have been mobilized to deliver supplies to snowbound Britons. British Gas said it had experienced its busiest week on record with many calls reporting broken boilers and frozen pipes.

In Croatia, snow swelled rivers and triggered emergency anti-flood measures. A number of houses were flooded in the southern town of Metkovic, forcing some residents to use small boats to reach polling stations during Sunday's presidential runoff, state-run news agency HINA reported.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Deep freeze

  1. Closed captioning of: Deep freeze

    >> than 300 car accidents. can you imagine that? forecasters predict no letup in britain 's harshest cold snap in 30 years. tom aspell is in london along the river thames with the latest. good morning to you. what's it been like out there today?

    >> good morning, alex. it's very cold. weather experts are saying maybe the atlantic jet streams have been displaced and others say perhaps el neen yo is to blame. everyone agrees it is very cold. this is a nasa picture from space showing britain covered by snow and ice. it's the coldest winter in 30 years. major sporting events have been canceled, soccer stadiums are empty. heavy snow has disrupted train schedules, delayed or canceled hundreds of flights and blocked roads. supplies of sand and salt to deice highways are running dangerously low. normally britain 's winters are moderate with rain, but this cold snap has caught everyone unprepared.

    >> very cold, indeed, but keep the heat on and the hot water going through the pipes it's survivable.

    >> reporter: across europe the misery is shared by millions as arctic winds sweep down from the north. in norway, 19 degrees below zero . it didn't stop a young bridegroom celebrating his stag party by going swimming. in holland skaters turned out for a 15 mile race. in france, it's a winter wonderland , but not quite cold enough to make paris lose its charm.

    >> it is cold. but it's also very romantic.

    >> reporter: in germany, trucks are backed up on the highways and there are long delays at airports.

    >> we don't know when, when we'll be in poland. so we are angry.

    >> reporter: weather forecasters say a block of cold air is stalled over northern europe . the big chill looks likely to continue. when the snows melt there may be other problems, floods. alex?

    >> something to look forward to, not. thank you very much. tom aspell in london.

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