France - Europe

Thousands stranded at Paris airport, chaos across Europe

Reuters/Alex Domanski

About 20,000 people were trapped at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport on Sunday afternoon, according to officials there, with airlines set to cancel at least 40 per cent of flights. Heavy snow has wreaked havoc with transport all over Europe.


Other European airports were asked to forbid take-off for flights heading for Charles de Gaulle early Sunday afternoon but about 450 flights were expected to leave, on average one hour 20 minutes late.

Paris Orly airport was less affected with delays of about 45 minutes on average.

The weekend's heavy snow has also disrupted France’s sporting calendar, with football matches between Lille and Nancy and Lens and Caen put off indefinitely.

The French government advised people to use motor vehicles only in cases of “absolute necessity” on Sunday and to take chains, snow tyres, provisions and blankets with them if they did so.

Emergency accommodation was provided for 220 coach passengers, including children, coming from the UK in the channel port of Calais.

But the rail network reported few problems, apart from delays of up to 20 minutes in some areas.

Eurostar trains linking London with Paris and Brussels were operating but with speed restrictions that added up to an hour to journey times.

The number of French departments on alert fell from 34 on Sunday morning to 12 by the afternoon with snow easing off and temperatures rising slightly. Rain was expected to follow, leading to a danger of slippery conditions due to ice and slush.

Unusually heavy snow caused chaos across Europe on Sunday:

  • In the Balkans four people died of cold – two men in Banja Luka, Bosnia, and an elderly couple found dead in their house, which had been cut off for several days by snowdrifts, in Krusevac, southern Serbia;
  • In Germany 540 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport with show expected to continue to fall into the evening and rail company Deutsche Bahn asked travellers to avoid taking trains in the afternoon due to overbooking;
  • In Britain London Heathrow, the world's busiest international passenger airport, remained paralysed
  • In the Netherlands dozens of flights were cancelled at Amsterdam's Schiphol ariport, where some 3,000 people were forced to spend the night in the airport.

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