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Europe sees deadly deep freeze, travel chaos

Snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures have battered Europe, killing 29 people in Poland alone and wreaking havoc on travelers from the Nordics to Italy.
Germany Weather
Tourists inspect icicles in the Dragon Canyon near Eisenach, Germany, on Sunday.Jens Meyer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures have battered Europe, killing 29 people in Poland alone and wreaking havoc on air, train and car travelers from the Nordics to Italy on the last weekend before Christmas.

France's civil aviation authority ordered the cancellation of 40 percent of flights out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports Sunday through mid-afternoon.

The authority later said it was asking airlines flying out of Charles de Gaulle to cancel 20 percent of flights planned Monday morning because of forecasts of intermittent snowfall.

Belgium was also badly hit, while travelers at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport faced delays and cancellations. In western Germany, Duesseldorf airport was closed because of heavy snowfall, with flights canceled or rerouted.

Flights at Manchester Airport, Britain's busiest outside the London area, resumed after its only runway was briefly closed for snow clearance.

In Brussels, passengers lined up for several hours in an effort to rebook flights.

"There's been no information, no people to ask, no nothing," said Monica Estaban, a 21-year-old student returning home to Barcelona for Christmas. "I can't wait to get out of here. I'll take whatever flight I can."

There was trouble on the railways too, with trains from Belgium to Italy delayed by icy, frozen tracks.

Eurostar trains through the Channel Tunnel weren't running Sunday as officials tried to pinpoint the problem that led four trains to come to a halt in the tunnel linking England and France, leaving passengers stranded for hours Saturday.

Officials have speculated that the quick transition from the icy cold of northern France to the relative warmth of the tunnel might have caused condensation that interfered with the trains' electrical systems.

The Eurostar shutdown has stranded more than 50,000 passengers in France and Britain over the past two days.

So far the cold snap has been deadliest in Poland, where 29 people froze to death on Saturday and Sunday as temperatures fell as low as -4 F overnight in some places.

Police appealed Sunday to Poles to alert police if they come across homeless or drunk people lying outdoors, attempting to lower the number of people who die each winter from the bitter cold.

In Austria, authorities reported three people froze to death as they tried to make their way home after evenings out. Two were found in the southern province of Styria and a third near the city of Salzburg.

A homeless Polish man was found dead Saturday in the French Mediterranean port city of Marseille, where temperatures fell to around freezing.

In Germany, temperatures sank to between -5 and -4 F overnight across much of the country. A homeless man in Mannheim apparently froze to death early Saturday as he slept near disused railway tracks after drinking, police said.

In Italy, where winters are generally milder, heavy snow and subfreezing temperatures were causing havoc. In Sicily, the Defense Ministry dispatched helicopters to ferry civil protection crews to people in need of urgent medical care.

Italian farm lobby Coldiretti warned that the ice-and-snow-blanketed roads were delaying the distribution of milk and produce while the freezing temperatures risked damaging fruit trees, olive groves and vineyards.

In Finland, at least four people were killed in road accidents after an afternoon blizzard dropped up to 20 centimeters, or nearly 8 inches, of snow onto icy roads.

Major soccer matches were canceled in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.