Paris: Europe’s deep freeze, which has cost some 60 lives over the past week, showed little sign of ending on Friday as a shivering continent awaited a sliver of weekend respite from the chaos wrought by a brutal Siberian weather system.
After heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe across Thursday, conditions marginally improved in some regions — but temperatures generally remained sub-zero, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at airports.
Geneva’s busy airport announced it had re-opened shortly after midday “despite the unfavourable meteorological conditions”, having warned earlier it faced staying shut for a second consecutive day as snowstorms continued to lash the Swiss city.
Airport authorities warned, however, of further “delays and cancellations.
Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to records of up to minus 40 degrees Celsius in the ongoing blizzard, which has also impacted air, road and train transport around Europe and even covered usually balmy Mediterranean beaches with a blanket of snow.
In France, 21 departments, mainly in the northwest, remained on alert for snow and black ice as the vicious cold snap — which British media have dubbed “the Beast from the East,” the Dutch the “Siberian Bear” and Swedes the “snow cannon” — maintained its grip.
Over the past week, the freezing conditions have claimed 59 lives according to an AFP toll — 23 in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four in France, at least three in Spain, two in Italy, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia and one in Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The cold threw a spanner into the works of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to give a speech on Brexit in the northeastern city of Newcastle.
May elected to stay put in London given the transport mayhem, which saw motorists stuck in their cars around Manchester in the northwest and troops deployed earlier in Hampshire in the deep south to aid other drivers battling fresh snowfalls and icy gales.
In Ireland, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy tweeted that “blizzard conditions have now passed”, advising people they could now venture outdoors while still exercising “extreme caution”.
Even so, Dublin airport remained closed until at least Saturday in Ireland, where some 24,000 people remained without electricity on Friday morning.
The country battled to get over the worst of a combination of the cold blast and Storm Emma, which has also been battering western Europe and was doing its worst over Britain after moving up from further to the southwest.
Temperatures in London and Dublin remained just below freezing around midday, with Britain’s Meteorological Office forecasting more snow on the way.
Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures as conditions left a number of major roads blocked owing to snow and black ice as forecasters warned northern and central regions would see little immediate improvement.
Many schools remained closed and local authorities told people to remain indoors unless they urgently needed to travel.
Elsewhere in Europe, Serbia and Croatia saw some improvement but two people died in Poland as temperatures plunged to a low of -27 Celsius. They were set to remain in some areas as low as -17 across the day even as forecasters spoke of a relative weekend thaw. — AFP