Snow causes European travel chaos

CRYSTAL BECERRIL - Associated Press
Daniel Lacroix of Chevilly-Larue, practices a skating style of cross-country skiing on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 a day after the snow fell on the French capital . (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
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Daniel Lacroix of Chevilly-Larue, practices a skating style of cross-country skiing on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 a day after the snow fell on the French capital .

Travelers in Paris and Frankfurt slept at the airport after snow and ice caused travel chaos. Pop singer Shakira canceled a concert in Germany, while the French prime minister missed a gala at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater.

Many European commuters suffered through traffic jams on slushy streets Thursday, and Scotland even called in the army to clear the snow. Flights out of Paris and Frankfurt were still delayed after bad weather forced the temporary closing of airports a day earlier.

Paris, a city of frequent rain, is unprepared for snow. Amid Wednesday's snowfall of 10 centimeters (4 inches), bus service was shut down, traffic backed up, tourists were ushered out the Eiffel Tower and Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport was forced to close for an hour and a half.

Shakira canceled a Wednesday night concert in Frankfurt because she couldn't take off from Paris, German news agency DAPD reported.

Concert organizers did not hear of the problem until an hour before the concert, when they had to tell 11,000 fans already gathered in the concert arena to head home. A spokesman for the concert organizers told DAPD that a new date for early 2011 will be set soon.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon missed a special gala by Russian and French dancers at the Bolshoi because of delays leaving France. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — no stranger to snow — offered to have the Bolshoi re-run the event in Fillon's honor, the RIA-Novosti news agency said.

On Thursday, delays of up to an hour persisted at Charles de Gaulle. Some passengers huddled under blankets after a long night sleeping at the airport.

"The airport last night was giving out towels, mattresses to sleep on, water, and they were coming around constantly to see if everything was OK," said Lynne Seavor, whose flight home to Britain's East Midlands Airport was delayed by 24 hours.

The sun was out Thursday in Paris, melting snow off roofs. Sidewalks were slick, and traffic was still badly disrupted.

The Eiffel Tower's first floor reopened to tourists, a day after it was entirely shut down. Officials say they can't use salt there because it could cause damage to the monument.

A combination of snow, rain and temperatures hovering right around the freezing point caused traffic chaos in Germany, with hundreds of accidents reported across the country and scores of miles-long (kilometers-long) traffic jams.

One person died in a crash in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state that borders France.

Frankfurt Airport was shut down for more than four hours through the night after its runways were deemed too slick to allow for safe takeoffs and landings, spokesman Robert Payne said.

Extra cots and chairs were brought in to accommodate the 2,000 to 3,000 people who spent the night in the terminal due to canceled flights, while others were put up in local hotels, Payne said.

The runways were fully operational Thursday, but widespread delays and some cancellations were expected.

Meanwhile, Scotland called in the army to help clear snow and ice after the heaviest snowfall since 1963 paralyzed the country's capital.

Edinburgh City Council held talks with the Ministry of Defense and the Scottish government to secure help digging out the capital after up to 30 inches (75 centimeters) of snow in parts of the city left some of its most vulnerable residents unable to leave their homes.

Soldiers are to aid residents in the hardest hit parts of Edinburgh and clear sensitive locations, such as hospitals and doctors' offices.

The army will also work to remove snow and ice from roads. Parts of the country have not seen a positive temperature reading for nearly two weeks.

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David Rising in Berlin and Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.