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Snowed-in Belarus tells citizens to stay home
by Staff Writers
Minsk (AFP) March 16, 2013

Thousands stranded as snow paralyses western Hungary
Budapest (AFP) March 15, 2013 - Thousands of people spent Friday stranded in their cars on Hungarian roads as a severe snowstorm and violent gusty winds overnight caused widespread havoc.

The Hungarian Red Cross estimated up to 10,000 people, including many tourists and foreign nationals, were trapped on the M1 motorway overnight and through Friday between Budapest and the Austrian border.

In the western part of the country, 13,000 inhabitants in 57 villages were cut off from the outside world.

Massive snowdrifts blocked a total of 160 roads and disrupted five railway lines. The storm also left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

Thousands of emergency workers were deployed to rescue people in danger, clear roads and restore electricity.

Tens of thousands of people had been expected in Budapest Friday to attend large-scale political rallies for Hungary's national day but both the government and opposition groups called off their respective events.

Heavy snow brought much of Belarus to a halt on Saturday, leaving travellers stranded for hours on highways and forcing the government to call in the army to help clear roads.

Traffic police closed off most major roads in and around the capital Minsk, officials said.

"The emergency ministry is asking all citizens not to use auto transport, and we don't recommend that elderly people go outside unless it's an emergency," the ministry pleaded on its website in giant letters.

Over 20 thousand people were called in to shovel and plough the snow out of the way, and some stranded people were placed by rescue workers into temporary shelters, it said. Adverse conditions also caused accidents involving up to 20 cars.

Those snowed in on the road complained on Twitter of spending up to 18 hours to drive 300 kilometres, and posting images of people huddling around bonfires in the early hours of Saturday.

The emergency ministry said 1,688 towns and villages had suffered from power outages.

Minsk airport was forced to close Friday, rerouting arriving planes to other airports in Belarus and even Ukraine and Lithuania. It reopened Saturday afternoon.


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Late-winter snowstorm batters northwestern Europe
Paris (AFP) March 13, 2013
A severe late-winter snowstorm battered northwestern Europe on Tuesday, causing widespread travel chaos with the cancellation of hundreds of flights at main airports and the suspension of train services including cross-Channel Eurostar trains. Blizzard-like conditions - coming only eight days before the official start of spring - also knocked out power to thousands of people in France and ... read more

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