x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Siberian cold front causes chaos

Heavy snow and freezing tempratures have led to widespread disruption in Britain and parts of the US, while also causing a power shortage in China.

LONDON // Heavy snow and freezing tempratures have led to widespread disruption in Britain and parts of the US, while also causing a power shortage in China. Unusually heavy snowfall stranded hundreds of motorists, disrupted trains and shut down schools and airports across Britain today as the country suffered through its longest cold snap since 1981. The military was called in overnight to help rescue motorists when up to 1,000 vehicles were caught in a massive snow-related traffic jam in Hampshire, in southern England. The runway at London's Gatwick Airport, the second busiest in the country, was closed for snow clearance this morning while sections of the country's most important roads - such as the M1, which links London and Leeds - were closed. A dozen flights were cancelled at London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest, with massive lines building at check-in desks. Similar delays and cancellations were reported at regional airports.

The unusually cold weather is expected to continue for the next two weeks. Much of the rest of Europe was also in the grip of freezing temperatures due to the weather front from Siberia. Norway was among the coldest, with temperatures in the central town of Roeros falling to -41C. In the Netherlands, the ice was thick enough for the year's first natural skating event to be held. Up to 1,400 people were expected to take to the ice at the Henschoter Lake in Utrecht today to enjoy a two-kilometre circuit. Snow and ice in France caused traffic problems in the west and south-west, including in Bordeaux. Forecasters expected more snow later and Normandy in the north-west was expected to be hardest hit.

Hungary was covered in snow, and motorists in the capital Budapest were warned not to use their cars. Parts of Italy saw torrential rain and officials feared the swollen Tiber River could threaten Rome in the coming days. In the US, Florida farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars worth of crops as an unusual cold snap gripped the southern states. Sun-seeking tourists visiting the coast region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida also had to endure chilly temperatures that were expected to last through the weekend. The cold front has also caused coal and power shortages in northern and central China as residents scramble to keep warm, the state press reported today. Earlier today temperatures in Beijing fell to minus 16.7C ? the lowest in the capital since 1971 ? as rare snows fell in central and eastern China, the state weather bureau said.

The icy weather has strained the nation's power grid, with the eastern city of Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong and Hubei cutting power to some areas as they rationed electricity, the China Business News reported. *AP/AFP