Europe freezes as fresh snow causes travel chaos

Heavy snow blanketed Paris forcing the closure of the Eiffel Tower and briefly shutting its main airport as sub-zero temperatures turned Scottish roads into deadly ice sheets and Spain and Portugal cleared up after flooding and tornado-like winds.

Road, rail and air travellers faced fresh disruption following last week's transport shutdown with Paris's Charles de Gaulle-Roissy airport closed for an hour-and-a-half and the mercury plummeting as low as minus 18.3 degrees Celsius (minus one degree Fahrenheit) at Tyndrum in the Scottish highlands.

In Portugal the high winds carried off cars, uprooted trees, tore off roofs and blew over electricity poles Tuesday, leaving around 30 people injured. A second body was recovered in Spain Wednesday following flooding.

People walk on a snow covered street in front of the Invalides museum in Paris
People walk on a snow covered street in front of the Invalides museum in Paris

France's meteorological service France Meteo said 11 centimetres (four inches) of snow fell in central Paris, the heaviest snowfall since 1987.

Around 100 flights were prevented from taking off or landing at Roissy airport during the temporary closure while workers cleared the runways of the heavy snow that began falling around midday, airport officials said.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at the airport late Wednesday as the approach roads to Roissy were blocked, Air France said..

One in five flights were earlier cancelled at the request of France's civil aviation authority (DGAC) due to the poor weather forecast.

Runways at Paris's second airport Orly were also shut for about half-an-hour for snow to be cleared and flights were delayed by up to two hours.

The deluge left all motorways in the Paris region impassable and only a handful of the 350 Paris bus routes were operating.

Truckers were ordered to pull off the highways and wait until conditions improved. Five thousand police, including 2,000 in the Paris area, were deployed, while officers in four wheel drive vehicles went to the aid of stranded motorists in the Yvelines region west of Paris.

The operators of the Eiffel Tower first shut only the first floor of the giant monument that is one of the world's most visited sites.

"But since late morning the Eiffel Tower has been completely closed and will certainly not reopen today," said a spokesman.

In Scotland, First Minister Alex Salmond said everything possible was being done to keep the country moving.

One of the country's busiest motorways, the M8, remained partially shut, train services were disrupted and police advised motorists not to drive unless their journey was absolutely essential. Many schools also closed for the day.

Temperatures were expected to stay well below freezing throughout Scotland until Thursday -- leaving thick sheets of ice and compacted snow on roads and pavements.

"When ice gets onto motorways, salt doesn't dissolve the ice underneath minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).... These are just the realities of exceptional weather conditions," Salmond said.

Edinburgh council was meanwhile in discussions with the Scottish government and the army about bringing in soldiers to help clear snow from the city's streets.

Up to 76 centimetres (30 inches) of snow has fallen in parts of the capital and the temperature dropped to minus 14.6 degrees Celsius.

Hundreds of motorists were earlier in the week left stranded in their cars after they became trapped on snowbound roads in the worst conditions seen since the 1960s.

Elsewhere in Europe, police in Spain recovered the body of a nine-year-old boy who went missing after the car he was travelling in was swept away by floodwater.

The boy's father and his elder brother were able to escape from the vehicle which was swept into the river Alcudia near the south-central town of Almodovar del Campo in the Castilla-La Mancha region on Tuesday evening.

His death was the second from the storms that have battered southern Spain and Portugal since Saturday.

The flooding has blocked dozens of roads and forced the evacuation on Tuesday of some 3,000 people in the Andalucian town of Ecija after the river Genil burst its banks.

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