Snow brings chaos to Europe

Paris: Heavy snow and icy conditions that snarled traffic across the country over the weekend abated on Monday and roads returned to normal.

The heavy snowfall caused havoc on the roads, with some 15,000 people overall stranded in the French Alps, but created idyllic conditions for skiers, who had been glumly looking at bare slopes for weeks until the deluge arrived.

A group of 50 or so British holidaymakers stranded in the French Alps by heavy snow for much of the weekend finally made their way to their ski resorts Monday as the weather improved.

The British tourists left the Alpine town of Albertville by minibus or taxi for the ski resorts of Val Thorens and Val d’Isere, according to the deputy mayor Yves Dujol.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told French TV on Monday motorists had not been well prepared for the trip to the mountains and said the government would “look at ways to make people equip themselves better as a preventative measure.”

A winter storm left thousands of Britons without power, sent trucks sliding across icy highways in Germany and caused airport delays and traffic disruptions across the region.

A Swiss national died and 30 people were injured, two of them seriously, in a highway pile-up some 40 kilometres (24 miles) from the Slovenian capital after heavy snow across the centre of the country, police said.

The abundant powder created idyllic conditions for skiers in France and Germany, who have anxiously been watching bare slopes as temperatures remained unseasonably warm in recent weeks.

But it also created havoc for holidaymakers rushing to and from ski resorts for their end-of-year vacations.

Authorities in the Savoie region of the French Alps said nearly 15,000 people had been housed in emergency shelters, while others were forced to spend the night in their cars.

“It took us 10 hours to go 130 kilometres,” said Kevin Clavel who was stuck in his car with four passengers.

The heavy snows also brought the threat of avalanches, and one person died Sunday after being buried in a torrent of snow in the southern French Alps.

Icy conditions also caused the death of a 27-year-old man whose car slid into a ravine in the Belledonne mountain range.

France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged drivers “to exercise the utmost caution” and asked those who could delay their trips to do so.

The snow storm caused disruption in Britain where more than 100,000 homes were left without power and airports suffered delays.

In Germany, police reported dozens of weather-related accidents on Autobahn highways and country roads, with trucks sliding across icy lanes and creating a 20-kilometre traffic jam near the western city of Stuttgart.

The country’s biggest airport, Frankfurt, cancelled 20 of Sunday’s more than 900 scheduled flights and reported widespread delays as runways were cleared and jets de-iced.

As temperatures plunged in Italy, more than half the country was covered in snow, to the delight of ski resort operators from the Alps down to the lesser-known mountains of Abruzzo, east of Rome.

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