x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Travel chaos for UAE passengers as snow and ice blanket Europe

Big freeze leaves passengers stranded in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and there's more to come as overnight temperatures plunge to -33ºC.

Snow in Rome forced tourist authorities to close the Colosseum as vast amounts of Europe remain affected by winter weather.
Snow in Rome forced tourist authorities to close the Colosseum as vast amounts of Europe remain affected by winter weather.

DUBAI // Thousands of passengers faced travel chaos yesterday as a frozen blanket of snow and ice spread west across Europe, causing widespread flight delays and cancellations.

London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, cancelled about half its normal services as more than 15cm of snow fell in parts of England and temperatures dropped to -10°C.

Etihad Airways cancelled both its flights between Abu Dhabi and Heathrow, and Emirates cancelled their four between Dubai and Heathrow.

British Airways cancelled two flights from London to Dubai and a third took off five hours late. The airline's two flights between Abu Dhabi and Heathrow were delayed by about an hour.

Two Virgin Atlantic flights from Dubai to London were each delayed by about four hours.

Further disruption is expected today and passengers hoping to travel to or from European airports are advised to check their airline's website for up-to-date information.

Travellers stranded at Dubai International Airport yesterday were frustrated, but understood the problems.

"We just got told 15 minutes before our flight to London that it had been scrapped," said a member of the British Pilgrim Bandits skydiving team, who were due to fly back to Heathrow on Emirates yesterday morning after a five-day trip.

"We were told they were trying to get us on a Virgin flight but they only had about 70 spaces, so we don't think that's likely.

"The alternative is flying on Monday but at the moment we're just frustrated sitting in the airport. I guess it's not really anyone's fault because it's nature and you can't do anything about that."

In eastern Europe the nine-day freeze has cost hundreds of lives and left thousands without power, with warnings that low temperatures will continue this week.

A state of emergency was declared in Bosnia after the cold snap claimed its seventh victim, and avalanches and strong winds cut off hundreds of villages. Helicopters were needed to deliver aid packages to mountainous areas and take the sick to hospital.

Nine people died from freezing temperatures in Ukraine, taking the death toll to 131 from the cold spell, the most severe for six years with night temperatures plunging to -33°C.

Many of the dead were homeless people with bodies found in the streets under snow, in rivers and in doorways. More than 3,000 heated tents have been set up to provide makeshift accommodation.

The cold also killed eight people in Poland and three in Hungary, and five people froze to death overnight in Lithuania.

nhanif@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Reuters