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Britain blasted by winter chill

by Staff Writers
Manchester, England (AFP) Jan 5, 2010
Freezing temperatures and heavy snow gripped northern England and Scotland Tuesday, halting transport and major football fixtures and closing airports and hundreds of schools.

Storms moved further south late Tuesday, prompting fresh warnings of transport disruptions, with as much as 40 centimetres (16 inches) of snow forecast to fall overnight in some areas.

Britain brought in extra gas supplies from continental Europe to meet a 30 percent rise on normal seasonal use, the BBC reported.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown denied the country was facing a gas supply crisis, saying "There are always difficulties when we have a long spell of bad weather."

In northwest England, heavy snow blocked roads and triggered accidents, forcing officials to advise against all but essential travel on the roads.

One truck driver was killed in a motorway collision in Manchester.

As the storms moved south, Luton and Gatwick airports in London suspended flights late Tuesday. Liverpool and Manchester airports reopened after closing.

The snow wiped out both League Cup semi-final first legs, with Wednesday's Manchester derby between City and United and Blackburn's match against visitors Aston Villa postponed.

The weather also brought filming to a halt on two of Britain's top television soap operas. Shooting was suspended on Manchester-based "Coronation Street", while a spokeswoman for "Emmerdale" said "95 percent of cast members didn't make it in".

In Yorkshire, Leeds-Bradford Airport closed because of the conditions before re-opening, while some train services between Leeds and London were cancelled.

In Scotland, where temperatures plunged to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit) in places, flights were delayed at Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, while train services were disrupted from Glasgow to Edinburgh and London.

Voicing the frustration of travellers, Norman Baker, transport spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats party, asked: "Why is it that the British transport system comes near to collapse at the first sign of a snowflake?"

Hundreds of schools were closed in Scotland, Wales and northern England as teachers struggled to get into work and parents kept their children at home.

Stephen Davenport, senior meteorologist at MeteoGroup, said: "Should conditions continue in a similar vein then by March we might just be looking back at one of the coldest winters of the last 100 years."

Elsewhere in Europe, temperatures plunged to minus 19 degrees Celsius in parts of Germany.

Parts of Brittany and Normandy in northwestern France were given overnight snowfall warnings, with the snow likely to cause traffic problems and hinder businesses in the area, said Meteo-France.

"This cold snap will be lengthy," the service said.

In Switzerland, slight delays were reported at Geneva airport, while Zurich airport saw delays on flights coming from Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.

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Deep freeze in China as S. Korea cleans up after record snow
Beijing (AFP) Jan 5, 2010
The Chinese capital was in the grip of its coldest weather in 20 years Tuesday after snow storms caused chaos, while South Korea sent out an army of civil servants and soldiers to clear clogged roads. China's national weather centre said the mercury dipped Tuesday to minus 15.6 degrees Celsius (four Fahrenheit) -- the lowest in more than two decades, after Beijing was hit by its heaviest sno ... read more

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