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Heavy snow strands Christmas travellers in Europe

Updated: 2010-12-25 14:14


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Heavy snow strands Christmas travellers in Europe

Passengers sleep in a terminal at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy, near Paris, after flights were cancelled due to snow and freezing temperatures December 24, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]

BRUSSELS - Heavy snow stranded thousands of Christmas travellers in parts of Europe on Friday, with Belgium's main airport closed for most of the day to landing and icy roads in Sweden choked with traffic.

Cold weather during the busy Christmas period has disrupted travel and business across Europe this week, and the prolonged period of severe weather is expected to clip economic growth in Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

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A spokesman for Brussels' airport said hundreds of beds were ready for stranded passengers after the airport reopened to inbound flights following a day of delays and cancellations.

"The fact of the matter is plenty of people will stay at the airport," said spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse. "As of 4 pm (1500 GMT) today, the airport is open to a limited amount of inbound traffic. Departing flights continue but at a slow pace."

"We have already organised hundreds of beds with the Belgian army and Red Cross so that people don't have to sleep on the floor. It is going to be a difficult night."

"I can't remember the weather being this bad in December," he added.

In Sweden, heavy snowfall across southern parts of the country caused major traffic problems on roads and railways for the second day running on Friday.

The Swedish Transport Administration predicted tough weather conditions would disrupt travel on Christmas Day, with many trains likely to be cancelled.

About 2,000 people were forced to spend Thursday night at two main airports in Paris as snowfall in the north and east of the country continued to disrupt transport services.

The French government expects hundreds of people to spend Christmas Eve night at Roissy, largely due to a lack of de-icing fluid. About 700 army-style folding beds plus blankets filled terminal areas, and a Santa Claus handed out cuddly toys to stranded children.

Paris airports' authority chief Pierre Graff said de-icer producers were at the limit of what they could deliver. "There was a serious supply problem yesterday which we overcame with some incredible acrobatics," he told RTL radio.

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