Travel Chaos and Beauty Snow and Freezing Weather Hits Germany

Winter arrived early in Germany and much of Europe this week, causing thousands of accidents and travel chaos but also creating snowy landscapes of exquisite beauty. Temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing for the rest of the week and more snow is expected.


Winter hit Germany with a vengeance on Tuesday as heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures caused some 2,000 traffic accidents on icy roads and led to more than 250 flight cancellations at Frankfurt airport alone. At least three people died in accidents on icy roads.

Many roads and motorways became impassable due to ice and snowdrifts, and there were long traffic jams across the country. On the A-96 motorway near Munich, an accident cause a 10-kilometer tailback.

Some 200 passengers had to be evacuated from a high-speed ICE train near the Bavarian town of Kronach on Monday night after snow caused a tree to topple onto an overhead line. The train was stuck and temperatures inside fell sharply because of a power outage. The passengers were taken to a nearby school gymnasium and provided with hot drinks and food before they continued the journey in buses.

Elsewhere in southern Germany, a truck carrying livestock overturned on an icy motorway and more than 100 squealing pigs were hurled onto the tarmac. Some 25 of them died in the accident.

In the northern region of Schleswig-Holstein, 40 children were stuck in a school that was cut off by snow.

Mass Snowball Fights

In the town of Sigmaringen in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, the temperature plunged as low as 18 degrees Celsius below zero (-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday night. More snowfall is expected in the coming days and it is forecast to get even colder.

In the eastern city of Leipzig, an initially harmless snowball fight among several dozen youths escalated into a full-blown riot involving 500 people in which stones, bottles and firecrackers were hurled.

A police spokesman said mass snowball fights are an annual ritual among mainly left-wing youths in the city's Connewitz district, and that they usually culminate in rioting. After heavy snowfall last January, several cars were damaged and a container set on fire.

In Mahlberg, southern Germany, fresh snow helped police catch a robber with surprising ease. A 19-year-old man who had just robbed a gas station with a fake pistol and using a tea towel as a face mask made the mistake of leaving the scene on a bicycle. Police followed his bicycle tracks all the way to his home and arrested him, local media reported on Monday. He immediately confessed.

Much of Europe was hit by wintry weather, including France, northern Britain and the Benelux countries. In Moscow, at least six people have frozen to death this week.

cro -- with wire reports

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