BERLIN: Parts of Europe are facing chaotic travel conditions as temperatures across the region plunged below zero amid heavy snowfalls, blocked roads, dozens of accidents and the worst coastal storms in a decade.
A 20-year-old man died and his passenger was severely injured after he lost control of his vehicle on an icy road in western Germany.
Two lorries collided on a snow-covered highway in the southern part of the country resulting in damage costing about 500,000 euros.
Meanwhile in northern Sweden, about 100 rail passengers were stranded overnight after a train engine broke down near the small northern village of Nattavaara, 50 km south of Gallivare.
Passengers told local newspaper NSD that they huddled together to keep warm before villagers took them to the local parish hall and also opened a little convenience store.
Strong winds unleashed by a cold front dubbed Axel and a surge in water levels battered northeastern coastal areas in Germany and Scandinavia with parts of Europe also blanketed by snow.
“We registered 100-year highs [in water levels] in Sonderborg, Bagenkop, Aabenraa, Rodbyhavn, Hesnaes, Rodvig and Koge,” a spokesman for the Danish Meteorological Institute Frank Nielsen told public broadcaster DR.
The dramatic weather conditions resulted in some Baltic Sea ferry services being cancelled with temperatures in parts of Scandinavia plunging to colder than minus 40C.
The water level was in some cases, such as Bagenkop on the southern Danish island of Langenland, almost 1.80 metres over the normal level but officials expect them to recede during Thursday. Germany’s Maritime and Hydrography Agency said water levels along the Baltic Sea coast in the country’s northeast rose late on Wednesday to between 1.5 and 1.7 metres above their normal levels before dropping to around 1 metre above average by early Thursday.
In the German cities of Luebeck and Flensburg cars were carried away by the flooding and parts of Luebeck’s World Heritage-listed old town became impassable for pedestrians.
“We can’t comment yet on the extent of the damage,” a Luebeck police spokesman said. However, Luebeck’s famous brick gothic Holsten Gate had been spared by the floods.
Coastal towns such as Kiel, Rostock, Waernemuende and Wismar were also hammered by bad weather with reports of houses under water and whole streets flooded as the region felt Axel’s full force.
On the island of Usedom, parts of the beach-side promenade as well as staircases and food stalls were ripped away by the flooding.
Wind speeds of up to 123 kilometres per hour and temperatures as low as minus 20C have been recorded by the German Weather Service.
The Bavarian authorities raised the avalanche warning to a high danger level after heavy snowfalls carpeted the southern German state.
Europe’s meteorological authorities say the storm is now moving across the Baltic towards Belarus.
Still, stormy weather was also predicted for eastern and southern Germany, with snow and sleet expected on Thursday. — dpa